Another month, and another weaker than expected jobs report.
So what’s up with the economy? Aren’t we supposed to be well on the road to economic recovery and a return to “normal” by now?
First the facts:
● The unemployment rate remained constant at 8.2 percent. But, the “real unemployment rate” that combines those who are looking for work and those who are only able to work in a part-time job increased to 14.9 percent last month.
● Growth in non-farm payrolls drop from an average of 226,000 per month in the first quarter of this year to 75,0000 per month in the second quarter.
● Manufacturing jobs were growing at an average of 41,000 jobs per month in the first quarter. They are now limping along at a rate of 10,000 new jobs per month in Q2.
● And while this feels like a recession is imminent, the the economy is still growing. In fact, June 2012 marks 29 straight months of private sector job growth that has added 4.4 million new jobs.
Here’s another interesting fact: it is estimated that we have somewhere between 3.5 to 4 million jobs open in the U.S. due to a shortage of skilled workers.
Welcome to the new normal: Unemployment that is higher than anything we can remember in decades. Scores jobs are available due to a lack of skilled workers. Slow growth that feels like a recession even though technically it isn’t, and most of all, uncertainty.
Uncertainty makes people timid. Timid companies don’t hire people or expand in ways that will allow them to grow in the future. Timid people don’t spend as much money – which isn’t a bad thing. But most important, they don’t invest in their future – which IS a bad thing.
Here are three things you can do to hedge against uncertainty and flourish in this time of uncertainty:
1. Focus on value given and value received.
In uncertain times, investors run toward value. Your customers do the same thing. Your challenge is to add so much value that customers choose to do business with you today. If you provide a discretionary product or service, you have to be crystal clear about the return on investment you will deliver. If you compete against another organization for a non-discretionary purchase, you must show that your value clearly exceeds that of your competitor.
This principle also applies to individuals. Your employer will base decisions on the value you provide for the investment they are making. If you aren’t creating more value than the cost of keeping you, why should they bother?
2. Strategically invest in your future.
The biggest threat most of us face is relevancy. People who purchase your product or service are asking, “Why you? Why now? What makes you relevant?”
Employers who are deciding to hire you or even keep you on the payroll are asking the same questions.
Now is the time to strategically invest in the areas that will make you successful five years from now while continuing to add value today.
For a company, that could mean investing in a new product, service, or piece of equipment. For an individual, it could mean learning a new skill. The best managed organizations in every field of endeavor actively manage their future. That is more important today than ever before.
3. Prepare for the worst and look for the best.
Long-term uncertainty breeds a lack of confidence. And, that lack of confidence closes our minds to opportunity. The Great Depression of the 1930’s saw lots of companies go away, but it also gave us companies such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, and Converse.
The same will be true today. Fifty years from now, we’ll look back on this time as the crucible that spawned legendary brands and businesses.
I’m a realist. You have to take precautions to protect yourself. But, you can only control what you do today. The surest way to thrive in the new normal of uncertainty is to strategically invest, add value, and be constantly on the lookout for opportunity.