Has the Executive Job Market Changed in 25 Years? History is Repeating itself…

An article from a 1987 MDL Partners’ newsletter, about the state of the job market 25 years ago.

The activity in the job market is accelerating daily while at the same time, the purveyors of gloom and doom persist.

We hear IBM will lay off thousands; DEC’s payroll will eventually be less than half of what it used to be; as a result of the technological advances in PCs, fewer people will be needed in production and distribution. We hear Boeing is cutting everywhere; the nation’s more than 11,000 banks are still consolidating; loggers are out of work (although the spotted owl will survive).

We hear – more cuts at Sears; further restructuring at GM; Grumman aircraft is in a tailspin. Seldom do we hear the good news. How often do we hear stories that the likes of Harley Davidson have been going through metamorphosis reestablishing itself as an American legend and exporting nearly a third of its production worldwide, or Walmart’s headcount going from 1500 to 400,000, or Microsoft from 2 to 10,000? We hear that 60% of jobs created by new businesses disappear within six years.

Are the “lost” jobs a result of small companies or entrepreneurs voluntarily closing down one business in order to start another, possibly bigger business, thereby creating more jobs than those previously lost? Look at all the suffering that is supposedly going on in the Northeast. Did you know there may be more venture capitalist interested in the Northeast than any other part of the nation?

We seldom hear the good news. Stories of suffering will likely sell more newspapers and airtime than stories of cheer, resulting in more sales of breakfast cereals, BMWs, and beer. Look at this year‘s Pulitzers for journalism and on-the-spot reporting and ask yourself, was it rapture or woe that won the prize?

I’m reminded of an article on manufacturing. Describe the effect the cotton gin had on unskilled labor in the South. Many lost their jobs and were forced to look for work in the urban areas of the North. Hence the cities became filled with many uneducated, out-of-work people. If we recognize this is to be a price for progress, would we have been better off without the cotton gin? Before you answer, take a look at how many people are employed making blue jeans, bedsheets, and bath towels.