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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

December 4, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Behind a holiday surprise on jobs: Is this present for real?

Top of the News: The economy lost a net 11,000 non-farm payroll jobs last month. That’s not a typo. That’s not in line with the 111,000 jobs cut in October, much less the more than 750,000 vaporized in January. It’s one of the most hopeful data points seen since the recession began. Until the jobs situation turns around, we won’t see a real recovery however many yachts the Goldman Sachs boyz can buy.

Two notes of caution: First, November saw a rise in the duration of unemployment, already one of the most troubling aspects of this labor-market crisis, and discouraged workers rose by 53,000 to 861,000, the highest yet.

It remains to be seen whether this happy trend can continue with net gains to come. The bleeding has been staunched to a significant degree by the federal stimulus which won’t last. And President Obama seems dead-set (as evidenced in his useless jobs summit Thursday) against infrastructure investments — all together now: high-speed rail, transit and really enhancing Amtrak — that would create permanent jobs.

The Back Story: While Wall Street keeps waiting for the uproar on outrageous executive compensation to go away, the solutions aren’t that difficult. I keep saying, quit trying to regulate pay and simply tax them as in the old days of such socialists as Dwight Eisenhower.

Still, some companies are doing a better job on executive pay, not surprisingly seeing a better bottom line, and it comes down to good corporate governance. Paul Hodgson at the Corporate Library, a research and watchdog outfit, boils it down to a set of best practices:

Among them: not paying incentives for below-median performance; setting challenging performance goals; awarding long-term incentives that are not based on simple stock price yardsticks, keeping down perks, keeping comp plans simple and signing fewer “golden parachute” agreements.

I’ll be taking a few days off next week and, barring major breaking news, will resume the blog on Thursday.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Better jobs data

May help one guy keep his post:

Mr. President

Comments | More in Jobs/Unemployment

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