Jobs, wages on the up; so wanting to believe


December 6, 2014 - 12:00 AM

The November jobs report released Friday is a shot in the arm for the nation’s economy. The best part of seeing more new jobs is that they are coming with higher wages.
Finally, employers are feeling the pressure of a tight labor market to raise wages in order to keep a steady workforce.
Starting today, the Register is running a multi-faceted series on the employment climate in southeast Kansas.
Our unemployment rate — 3.4 percent — looks very good when put up against the state’s 4.4 and nation’s 5.8 percent rates. And yet, we face challenges. Wages for our region pale in comparison to state and national averages. In Allen County the median wage is $14.27 an hour compared to the state average of $15.44 and national average of $19.75.
While we may have recovered job-wise from the 2008 recession, we have not recovered pay-wise.
When it comes to talking about local wages, the elephant in the room is that some local industries took advantage of the recession by slashing wages and benefits, which to this day remain depressed.
It’s very difficult to broach this subject with industries whose headquarters are overseas and have no specific loyalty to Allen County.
 The memory of Haldex closing the Iola plant for cheaper wages in Monterrey, Mexico is still all too fresh. At its heyday, Haldex employed 700. By its closing in late 2010, the workforce had been whittled down to 160.
As a country, we’ve been on a roller-coaster of trying to recover from the 2008 recession. Solid gains have proved elusive until now, (knock on wood.)
The job gains are the best in 15 years, (stroke the rabbit’s foot.)
Interest rates may even inch up by summer, (salt over shoulder.)

BECAUSE the recovery has been so long coming, we’re all naturally gun shy of it being something we can bank on. But think of this, five years ago the nation’s unemployment rate was 9.9 percent. Just last year it was 7 percent. Today, a robust 5.8 percent.
And to color the picture a solid pink, gas prices continue to trend down. This week the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $2.77, down from $3.26 a year ago at this time.
For the average family, this will mean an annual savings of more than $600 a year.
With oil trading at $66 a barrel — down from $107 in late June — we’re told we can expect even lower prices to come.
A direct result has been a national surge in auto sales, up 4.6 percent compared to last year at this time. Ford’s F-150, still a gas guzzler, leads the pack.

’TIS THE SEASON to believe — even the seemingly impossible.

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