You may soon start hearing pundits talk about the dreaded term “recession.” It’s one of those words used by finance people that comes across as ominous and foreboding. When people discuss recessionary times, it conjures up fears of long lines at the gas station, a fading economy, high inflation, job losses and general malaise.
A recession is a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters. Although it’s not a perfect science, there is an old joke about economists who often get things wrong— “He’s predicted nine of the past five recessions”—implying the prognosticator is merely guessing and missing the mark on too many occasions to be taken seriously.
The Signs Of An Upcoming Recession
The United States is starting to see some of the warning signs of a recession. When the stock market plummets by 20%, it’s called a “bear market” and the massive losses contribute to a recession, as people lose faith in the economy and curtail expenditures. When people invest in the market and realize substantial profits, there is a wealth effect created. The windfall from investing emboldens people to spend more money, as they are confident that the good times will last forever.
When dramatic declines in stocks, bonds and cryptocurrencies happen, it has the opposite effect. Fear and panic take hold. Risk-taking is over and people go into survival mode, ruthlessly curtailing expenses.
Another factor for a recession is that inflation is raging to 40-year highs, further causing Americans to lose confidence. To pour more cold water on the economy and stock market, the Federal Reserve plans on continuing to raise interest rates. There is a fear that all of the strides the U.S. has made since the economy reopened will evaporate.
Many, if not all, of the stock gains from the meme subreddit Wallstreetbets crowd over the last year have already been lost. The same holds true for other investors too. If you have a company-sponsored 401(k) plan or IRA account, don’t look at the statements, as it will ruin your day.
Deutsche Bank economists wrote in a report to clients last month, “We will get a major recession,” becoming the first major bank to bearishly predict a U.S. recession. Bank of America has publicly stated that the mood in financial markets has been “recessionary.” Goldman Sachs said the tight labor market has “has caused a meaningful increase in the risk of recession.”
What Happens In A Recession
Recessions are usually characterized by job losses. You may think to yourself that is not indicative of the current labor market. Within the past year, the job market has seen a robust recovery. Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 428,000 jobs were added in April, with the unemployment rate remaining steady at 3.6%.
Job openings hit a record 11.5 million in March. That same month, a historic 4.5 million people quit their jobs, showing that Americans feel confident enough to quit their positions, as they believe there are plenty of other opportunities available.
Concerns over a slowing economy could take the steam out of the venture capital engines that have been producing numerous unicorn startups. The unprofitable outfits may not gain further funding and resort to layoffs.
What happens is that the U.S. could enter a situation in which things spiral downward. Rapidly rising unemployment is also another driver of a recession. As more people lose their jobs and business conditions deteriorate, those who find themselves in between roles will find it harder and take longer to procure a new role.
Fear Takes Over
It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fear of a recession prompts businesses to cut costs to conserve financial assets. They want to have the cash to get through the rough patches. The aggressive cost-cutting measures usually include pay cuts and job losses. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. The economy goes through these boom-and-bust cycles fairly regularly. For many people, there are not many other choices than to hunker down and ride it out until better times arrive.
There is a behavioral component too. As there is an eroding level of confidence in the economic and financial system, demand for goods and services declines. There comes a point in which the business cycle reverses course, due to the toxic confluence of rising inflation, loss of faith, joblessness, plunging stock market and housing prices, followed by a fear of further losses, making the economy contract.
How To Get Through A Recession
Now is the time to hyperfocus on your job and career. Make sure your position is secure. Lock in any verbal agreements for a raise, promotion and bonus. It will be awkward and uncomfortable, but ask your boss about how stable the company is and where you fit in. Ask them if they view you as irreplaceable and a future rising star.
If the answers are not to your liking, don’t sulk. Take action. Immediately go into job-hunt mode. Get in touch with top recruiters in your space. Speak with career coaches and résumé writers. Start networking on LinkedIn. Now is not the time to be shy. Push yourself to ask everyone in your network for job leads and introductions.
If you lose your job, make sure you put money aside to get through the time between now and when you secure another position. Keep expenditures down and pay down your credit card and other balances that charge ludicrously high interest rates. Switch investments from risky assets to something more secure or dividend-paying.
Consider going back to school to learn a new profession that is marketable and pays well. This is what happened after the dot-com bubble burst, the financial crisis and the beginning of the pandemic. People took shelter, not only at home, but in colleges, MBA programs and law school.
They used the economic downturn to learn and earn more, once they’ve finished their education. You could also take on gig work, start a side hustle or pivot toward starting a business. Use the time wisely to reevaluate what you really want to do with your work-life.
I am a CEO, founder, and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms in my area of expertise
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