College, Coronavirus and Consumer Spending

The coronavirus taking its toll on college education. According to a recent Junior Achievement and Citizens (which polled 2,000 American teenagers), a quarter of high school students have put their college plans on hold, primarily due to lack of financial support from traditional familial sources. Given that tuition fees are extraordinarily oppressive, people are now looking at the worthiness of college vis-à-vis investment in the future.  CEO and President of Junior Achievement, Jack Kosakowski explained:

“We’ve had this ‘college thing’ up on a pedestal. As costs have gone up, it’s forcing people to take a more realistic view.”

At this time, high-schoolers are focusing more on career training.  This is understandable for three reasons:

  1. Exorbitant college fees
  2. Seeing how easy it is to lose a job because of COVID-19, irrespective of a college degree
  3. Having time during COVID-19 to come up with ideas to make money.

Regarding the latter, youngsters have been finding a variety of ways of making money. These include:

  1. bitcoin investment (this has become very attractive with the younger generation which is seeing new ways of expanding their money while gaining more control over it);
  2. vlogging/blogging
  3. video game playing for money (think Playtest Cloud)
  4. online tutoring for other kids.

Jobs in the Energy Industry

According to a recent US Federal investigation on jobs in the clean energy sector, the pay for this work is generally 25 percent higher than the country’s media salary.  One example is solar power versus regular fossil fuel.  Standard fossil fuel jobs pay (on average) $24.37 per hour.  The national average is $19.14 but when you work in wind/solar power the average jumps to $24.85 per hour.  Plus the accessibility is better as every single state offers fossil fuel work.

Further, those who get a job in the clean energy sector are also more likely to receive healthcare and retirement packages.  Indeed around 90% of those who work in the sector do which is 20% higher than those who work in the general private sector.

Hence it is probably no surprise that in September 2020, solar installers and turbine technicians were ranked by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as two of America’s fastest growing occupations.

Investments in Society

Investments in ideas and startups is great.  But when the investments seek to benefit society at large, that is even better.  That is what American private investment firm Bain Capital is currently in the process of doing.

The firm – one of the largest multi-asset alternative investment entities in the world – has recently raised $800m in new capital in an attempt to support businesses that are working for the greater good.  The company’s impact investment section based in Boston – Bain Capital Double Impact – is focusing on the creation of environmental, governmental and societal benefits.

Approximately 12 portfolio firms have so far been backed under this program.

US Job Situation

There has finally been a drop in unemployment numbers.  But this is not exactly a call to bring out the champagne.  There has been such an increase in unemployment numbers within the last few months due to COVID-19 that it is quite hard not to see an increase. Let’s take a look at what some of this means.

Looking at the numbers for the end of June.  Thankfully unemployment dropped to 11.1% (which is still very high).  Nearly 5 million jobs were added in June which was a lot more than was estimated by economists.  In addition, June marks the second consecutive month that there has been this level of growth…but it does have to be seen in context in that 20 million jobs were lost in April during lockdown.

But looking toward the future it has been recognized that since many more individuals are now working from home and businesses are allowing for this, more jobs will also be created. There will be more opportunity and wages could increase since there is less money being spent on office maintenance.  This will definitely comprise some of the direction of the future.

Optimism on Post-COVID-19 US Economic Recovery

When the shutdown began due to COVID-19, stores and businesses worldwide were forced to close operations and thousands of people joined the unemployment lines, no one for a second imagined a recovery would be anything but traumatic. But there has been some good news for the US economy; it seems that recovery is happening and that it is actually ahead of the estimated schedule.  In May of 2020 America gained 2.5 million jobs and unemployment actually dropped to 13.3 percent, rendering it the highest gain in job creation since numbers were recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1939.

Of course these numbers do have to be taken in context.  April saw huge losses so comparatively that number might not be as positive as it initially appears.  Indeed, nearly 21 million jobs were lost in April of 2020.

And there is also the issue of the “misclassification” rendering the numbers inaccurate too.  Many were rendered as employed but not at work but the reality was not that they were working from home for example but they were temporarily laid off with no guarantee of a return to work and if so, in what capacity.  That would have put the unemployment figure in May actually at 16.1%.

Nonetheless, given that unemployment figures for May were estimated at approximately 20 percent, today’s numbers look good.  As President Trump stated during a a press conference:

“We’re going to be back and we’re opening our country. And if you look at the lockdown governors … the ones that are most energetic about opening, they are doing tremendous business and that’s what these numbers are all about.”

With a trillion-dollar rescue package and much larger unemployment aid, the recession has been guided through government aid as well.

Staying connected while working from home

Munear Ashton Kouzbari Offers Bosses Direction on Managing a Team Working from Home

Most of us spend a substantial portion of our waking hours at our workplace. Or at least we did before the corona pandemic upended our lives and forced us to spend all our time at home. Managers and employees, CEOs and support staff, are all navigating this new reality. Munear Ashton Kouzbari offers insight for bosses and administrators looking to weather the transition to remote employment successfully.

Have your Resources Ready

The 21st century is ready for working from home. There are so many free or low-cost options to establish and maintain a virtual office team.  Sit down with your tech crew and review your specific needs. Then you can select the set-up that is most suitable for you and your employees. Some managers mistakenly believe that they can rely exclusively on email to communicate with workers. You’ll want to use some kind of chat platform for regular check-ins and maintain an “administrator only” channel for updates.  Make sure that all the internal platforms and files that employees need to do their jobs are available outside of your office network.

Munear Ashton Kouzbari recommends the best tools for your business

This whole work-from-home thing happened very quickly. Few employers had time to properly train staff on using all the remote tools. Tech support will likely need to do some online training sessions, or even one-on-one calls, to guide people through the new processes. It will take time, but it is worth the investment.

Also, if practical, let employees take office equipment home. Laptop computers might be obvious, but office chairs, screens, keyboards, and even desk lamps can greatly enhance the home office experience.

Be Clear and Reasonable

Just because your team is now scattered, it doesn’t mean you should not be clear about what is expected of them. Set well-defined parameters of acceptable behavior and gently remind everyone that working from home is not a pseudo vacation. If you had weekly meetings in the office, maintain that schedule in a virtual forum (zoom, workspace, etc.). Attendance, and reasonable attire, should be mandatory.

BUT, keep in mind that many of your workers will also be juggling childcare during the pandemic. While most workers can stay task-focused while in the office, school and daycare closures have most parents struggling to find a work-life balance. When scheduling online meetings and calls, give plenty of advanced notice and ask for optimal times. Give as much leeway as possible on deadlines and understand that most parents will be putting in a lot of late-night hours once the kids are asleep.  

Maintain the Positive Office Environment

One of the reasons social distancing is such a struggle for most of us, is because we are social beings. As bosses, it is important to maintain a friendly and positive office culture so that employees enjoy coming to work and spending time with their colleagues. Now that working from home is the reality, your teams are probably missing each other, which can have a tangible impact on output. Use the tools mentioned above not only for work-related meetings but also to simulate kitchenette camaraderie.  Encourage colleagues to connect and consult with one another.

Encourage everyone to work together, even when they are apart

Communicate Regularly

When you and your staff are working remotely, keep the lines of communication open. Now that they can’t just pop their head into your office, make sure they know how to find you—and that you want to be found. Touch base with each member of your team on a regular basis. Whether you call by phone, ping them on a workplace platform, or initiate a video chat, take the time to genuinely express interest in how they are doing. This reality isn’t easy for anyone. Show them that you care about more than just the bottom line.  Your workers are likely to surprise you with their resilience and motivation to do well in this less-than-optimal situation. Use this time to uncover hidden talents or interests in your employees that didn’t necessarily come across in the regular work environment.

As we all figure out how to work through the current corona crisis, it is worth viewing this period of working from home as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Digital teams and communities are effective. Productivity, engagement, and even business growth can be obtained, even remotely, when managed correctly.

US Economy and Growth

America’s economy has enjoyed a steady solid growth rate for over 10 years.  The question is, where, how and what does the next decade look like?

According to a recent Bloomberg article, most of the wealth that the nation has generated has been from just 1% of counties. A recent report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis  found that a staggering 32.3% of US GDP was generated by 31 US counties.  What is perhaps even more odd about this statistic is that last year those 31 counties had only 26.1% of employed Americans.  

So it seems that the bones of the US economy is becoming further concentrated in larger cities and by the coasts.  Rural counties are dying down which could have implications for labor mobility and infrastructure spending.

But who exactly are these people who are bolstering the economy today?  According to a recent article in Yahoo Finance it is the immigrants who are making this happen: 

“Over the last decade, 42% of the net growth in U.S. population, and 54% of the net growth in the workforce, can be attributed to immigration. During the same period, the birth rate of native-born Americans has decreased, and the death rate has increased, due to aging. Immigrants now comprise roughly 15% of the total U.S. population. And because they tend to be younger than native-born Americans, immigrants now comprise about 17% of the U.S. workforce.”

With unemployment back at to its lowest since 1969 and a 3.1 percent increase in average hourly wages from 2018,  wherever its coming from and whoever’s providing it, the employment situation in America is positive.

Looking for a Job?

A job is so much more than a paycheck.  Obviously the monthly wage one brings home is crucial but having a place to go every day benefits one’s self-esteem; bolsters social skills and can even take one’s mind off everyday worries.  As such, the more people who are in gainful employment, the better for them, their families and society as a whole.  Here we take a brief look at which US states offer the best employment opportunities.

GoBankingRates recently conducted a study on the best places to find a job.  While nationwide the last decade has witnessed a 17+ percent growth rate, different states have varied employment growth rates.  For example, Colorado seems to offer the most employment opportunities and has a five year average annual unemployment rate of only 5. 7 percent.  Not only that but if you do live there, public transportation is good and improving. Private transportation is on the same page since there are now new vehicles in the market, powered by local electricity.  This of course is great for the environment and supplements the state’s economic development while offering customers reduced energy costs.

Over in New Hampshire – the second best place to find a  job in America right now – unemployment figures are a mere 3.2 percent and the state has added a third additional job vacancies than people seeking work.  Offering some of the lowest property taxes in the nation, with a median price of a home estimated at $244,900, economics look good for people living in the state of New Hampshire.

And then there is Utah (employment growth rates of 12.5 percent for 5 years and 17.4 percent for 10) with an unemployment average of just 3.4 percent in five years.  Minnesota also boasted a 10 year employment growth of 9.4 percent with one of the lowest unemployment rates nationwide. 

So job seekers have quite a lot to consider. If it does seem you’re just not getting the job you need/want, check out these other states for greater success.

Economic Growth and Job Vacancies

At the beginning of 2019 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a jump to 7.6 million of job vacancies in America.  Adding 304,000 new jobs in January was actually “almost double the 158,000 the market had forecast.” There have been other organizations noting a jump in employment opportunities throughout the nation as well, in particular the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). While this is really great news, there is of course the concern that this may open the door a bit too wide for those in current stable positions to seek better opportunities that could upset the apple cart, stressing out SME owners. There has also been a substantial decline in job layoffs.


Other good news for workers was the increase in hourly wages in February being “the fastest pace in nine years.”  As well, Kevin E. Schmidt pointed out that:

“The importance of this strength in jobs and wages is that it has driven much of the resurgence in the American economy. Jobs and wages are the cornerstone of consumer spending — the key driver of U.S. economic growth.”

Unemployment dropped to 3.8 percent in February (from 4 percent).