One of the ways I gauge the status of the job market is at the home improvement superstores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. When the job market is slack, HD and Lowe’s have some of the most helpful and knowledgeable people in the world working between the aisles. Need to replace the outlet on your deck? Then you need a 15 Amp 125-Volt Duplex Self-Test Tamper Resistant/Weather Resistant GFCI Outlet. How does the guy in the orange apron know? He is an unemployed electrician.
But when the job market is tight, as it is right now, god help you trying to find anyone in an orange apron not checking their Facebook feed. I literally chased a guy in plumbing Sunday trying to find a threaded 3/4 inch PVC Socket Cap. He made a dash down Air Filters and I never saw him again.
I spend a lot of time at Home Depot, probably more than I should, and I know this cycle and have watched it play out year after year. In fact I believe the knowledge or lack there of Home Depot employees should be one of our nations economic indicators right up there with interest rates and the trade deficit.
The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.1%. In my community it is even lower, 3.2%. Years ago I had a guy in charge of economic development and recruitment at our Chamber of Commerce tell me when the unemployment rate dips to around 3% that tells him we have more jobs than people to fill them. As he explained, the people between 0 and 3% are basically unemployable for reasons he didn’t detail. At that 3% unemployment point his job changes from recruiting businesses to finding labor for the jobs that already exist in our community. I would suspect that is what he is doing this morning.
I am not sure a tight job market is what is preventing the Trump administration from filling thousands of positions that have been vacant for over a year. And to compound their problems, over the last 12 months they have had one person after another resign, some in disgrace, get fired, or simply not get approved by a very Trump friendly Congress. It has gotten so bad that Trump recently gave the husband of Melania Trump’s cleaning lady a very important job in the EPA. His qualifications? He is a maintenance man. The spin the EPA put on his hire; “Steve comes to us from private industry, where he fashioned his career around customer service and organizational efficiencies. Steve is an experienced manager with skills in team building, management and organization.” I am sure Steve is a very nice guy and a great maintenance man, but really?
The latest resignation in disgrace is White House Staff Secretary, Rob Porter, who also happens to be the boyfriend of White House Communications Director Hope Hicks. Porter was accused by his two ex-wives (see a trend here) of physical and mental abuse, with pictures to prove it I might add. From Trump’s and the White House’s standpoint here is the, honestly I can’t think of an adjective other than F*cked-up part of the story, they knew about the alleged abuse. Hell it’s the reason Porter, a man as close to the throne as you can get, couldn’t even get a security clearance. Here we got the guy handing Trump important, sensitive documents and he doesn’t have the necessary security clearance to do it?
Trump touts to his Deplorable base that he is downsizing government by removing regulations and not filling vacancies. But here is the truth, he is removing regulations because big Corporate donors told him too and he is not filling vacancies because he can’t attract qualified candidates to fill the positions which is why he is hiring maintenance men. Maybe that’s why I can’t find anyone to help me at Home Depot.