Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job. She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up. The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds.

Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done. “I had just had it,” said Twidt, 33, who lives in Marietta, Georgia. With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions. “They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.” The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.

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Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February. “During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes. One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person. But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs.

Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said. “If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said. At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines.

But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good. Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.” For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.” The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.” Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote. Some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they’d rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, a new survey found.

Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they’d consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they’d consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.

Many global companies are embracing a hybrid work model as staff start to return to offices post-pandemic. Finance giants, who were known for having a strict work culture, are now adopting more flexible work models. Some have decided to redesign the workplace for more collaboration, and keep solo tasks for remote working. Others plan to cut back on office space entirely.

But some firms, such as JPMorgan, are not won over by the idea of remote work and want to see the majority of their workforce in the office. Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said on May 4 that remote work “does not work for young people” and “those who want to hustle.” Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

“You could do a lot of damage to those who don’t want to go into the office,” he said, adding that employers shouldn’t force people to come into the office.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

By: and

Source: Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home – Bloomberg

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Why Workload Placement Is The Key To a Strong IT Foundation

How you design your IT house can be as important as how architects design physical homes...getty

Where you decide to run your applications is as important as what you run. What does your workload placement strategy look like? Home architects are very careful about their design choices. Many of their decisions, such as the best locations for load-bearing walls, support beams and other infrastructure, have long-term consequences.

Where do they put windows and skylights will deliver optimal sunlight? How do they situate bedrooms and bathrooms? What is the right density of wood, concrete and other materials required to construct safe walls, roofs and floors? Those are just the broad strokes; architects plan thousands of minor details as well, often well before raw materials are purchased.

Like their home-building counterparts, IT systems architects carefully design technology systems. Which is why workload placement has emerged as a critical strategy for governing what applications and other resources run where.

IT has grown more complex, thanks to a proliferation of environments comprised of public and private clouds, on-premises infrastructure and edge devices. IT leaders who placed assets in these locations have constructed a multicloud house without planning for the long-term impact on their organization.

For example, while it may have initially made sense to build a key business application in a certain IT environment, perhaps performance began to lag as usage grew. Maybe the goalposts for security and compliance shifted, forcing you to rethink your choice.

Whatever architectural concerns arise, where you decide to put what in your IT house can be as important as how architects design physical homes. CIOs are thinking about this a great deal, as 92% of 233 IT decision makers Dell surveyed said that they have a formal strategy for deciding where to place workloads. Half of those executed this strategy in the past year.

Related: More Clouds, No Problem: Simplifying Your Multi-Cloud World

The Great Overcorrection

The public cloud grew rapidly, as engineers learned how easily it enabled them to launch and test new applications. Soon IT teams notched quick wins, including flexibility as they lifted and shifted existing business applications to the cloud.

Then came the overcorrection. Emboldened by the prospect of saving money while fostering greater agility as they innovated, many CIOs declared a “cloud-first” strategy. Those who were initially more measured in their adoption of cloud technology saw their colleagues migrate their entire IT estate and followed suit.

As workloads got more complex it turned out that the public cloud-first stance was not always the best fit for the business. Hasty decisions had unanticipated ramifications, either in the form of escalating costs or failed migrations.

The reasons: Workloads are unique. Each application has its own set of business requirements and benefits. Just as the home architect must carefully weigh each design choice, CIOs must be intentional about where they put their software assets.

Variations on a multicloud

Let’s consider some examples where the right workload is tied to a business outcome. Cloud environments—public or private—make sense where you get huge bursts of data traffic. Cloud technologies enable you to quickly spin up compute resources and dial them down as requirements subside.

Retail ecommerce is a classic example. For brands selling clothing, footwear and other merchandise, holiday seasonality drives peaks and valleys to web and mobile sales. Large traffic spikes in October or November through Christmas subside, then stabilize.

Or think of a digital crossword puzzle published every weekend. With most people completing these on the weekend, traffic bursts Saturday and Sunday before slowing over the remaining 5 days.

For such use cases, a public cloud that provides massive scalability may yield the desired business outcome.

Conversely, so-called “steady state” use cases—in which applications’ compute needs fluctuate little if at all—often run better on-premises, either in traditional IT infrastructure or in a private cloud. Thousands of these applications run without much deviation across business lines.

Think traditional general ledger software in ERPs. Travel and expense utilities. Software that governs data backups. Applications, such as those that monitor anomalous network traffic, often run locally for security reasons.

Other applications with disparate patterns and needs are emerging. Applications requiring minimal latency—think Internet of Things software—are moving to the edge for faster processing and cost efficacy.

In Dell’s survey, 72% of IT decision makers said performance guided their decisions to place workload, followed by data protection and security at 63% and 58%, respectively. Venues include public clouds, data centers, colocation facilities and edge environments.

Workload types vary, but 39% of respondents said they had placed data protection workloads while 35% each said they had placed ERP and CRM systems.

Diverse workloads require fungible infrastructure

There are no absolutes in determining workload placement. Well, not in the way many IT leaders think. Every software asset will have different requirements, which will influence where you decide to place them.

Just as an architect decides how to situate walls, beams, rooms and other physical infrastructure, where an IT architect places assets matters. The wrong choices can have negative consequences.

These decisions aren’t easy nor should they be made lightly, as the ramifications of poor asset placement can impact your bottom line, make your business more vulnerable or prompt you to run afoul of compliance mandates.

All diverse workloads require a flexible infrastructure that enables enterprises to move their applications and other workloads to move seamlessly across clouds, on-premises and edge venues, based on their business requirements.

As-a-Service infrastructure, which includes on-premises equipment ordered on demand, can power these workloads to meet requirements for performance and availability, as well as your needs for simplicity, agility, and control. How will you lay the foundation for your IT assets?

Keep reading: Why the Hybrid Workplace Needs a Hybrid IT Model

Vice President, Product Management, Dell APEX

Chad Dunn has been with EMC and Dell Technologies for over 15 years.

Source: Why Workload Placement Is the Key to a Strong IT Foundation

.

Related contents:

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Online placement of multi-component applications in edge computing environmentsS Wang, M Zafer, KK Leung – IEEE Access, 2017 explore.ieee.org… This problem, known as the application or workload placement problem, is notoriously hard,for tree application graph placement. We jointly consider node and link assignment, and …

Virtual machine placement with two-path traffic routing for reduced congestion in data center networksR Kanagavelu, BS Lee, NTD Le, LN Mingjie… – Computer …, 2014 – Elsevier The core network oversubscription and unbalanced workload placement could lead to long-…we consider efficient placement of VMs so as to minimize network link congestion and we …

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As Economic Concerns Rise, Executives Are Reporting Record High Stress and Defaulting To Old Office Habits

Future Forum’s latest report, which surveyed more than 10,000 workers during August, found that overall work satisfaction scores dropped 15% for executives, who also reported work-life balance scores that were 20% worse and work-related stress and anxiety scores that were 40% higher....getty

For months, the pandemic has driven an upswing in burnout among workers, focused attention on employees’ mental health concerns and fueled a wave of departures known as the Great Resignation, most noticeably on the front lines.

But the latest quarterly survey released Thursday from Future Forum, a consortium backed by the messaging platform Slack, finds that now, even senior executives’ sentiments about their jobs are declining—and it appears to be prompting them to fall back on old norms about where and when people work.

Future Forum’s latest report, which surveyed more than 10,000 workers during August, found that overall work satisfaction scores dropped 15% for executives, who also reported work-life balance scores that were 20% worse and work-related stress and anxiety scores that were 40% higher. While the sentiment and experience scores for executives dropped precipitously—particularly among those who work for large companies—those for non-executives remained flat or rose slightly, the report said.

While that might elicit little pity from employees who’ve felt overworked and underpaid over the past two years—and who are also worried about the economic slowdown—the added economic stress for executives can have an impact on the people who work for them, says Slack’s Brian Elliott, the executive leader for Future Forum.

“On top of that set of changes and challenges [from the pandemic], you’re facing a lot of economic pressures too,” says Elliott. “That kind of stress is leading people to go back to what’s familiar and comfortable for them. Executives are saying things like ‘I need my finger on the pulse of the organization’”—otherwise known as monitoring people in the office. “This is the first time we’re seeing this kind of jump and increase in stress in executives.”

Elliott says that whenever he talks to senior leaders—Future Forum does research but also convenes executives to swap ideas—the issues of productivity and culture come up as concerns. But the new data suggests employees work more productively if they have flexibility—and that concerns about culture erosion may be overblown.

Future Forum’s report—released by Slack, which makes tools it hopes will serve as a “digital HQ” for hybrid workers—found that workers who have full flexibility with their schedules say they are 29% more productive and 53% more able to focus than those who have no schedule flexibility.

Meanwhile, remote and hybrid workers were 52% more likely to say company culture has improved over the past two years, compared with those who work onsite daily, even though 25% of executives said “team culture is negatively impacted” by not being together in the office.

“I get why the stress is there on executives, but it’s driving a set of behaviors that are actually contrary to what they want to accomplish,” Elliott says. The report, for instance, also found that 60% of executives surveyed said they are designing policies with little direct input from employees.

He says that could lead organizations to be less competitive when it comes to recruiting talented employees. “If, as a senior leadership team, you’re still basing most of your decisions on the discussions that are happening at this level and not really getting in and understanding it,” Elliott says, “then you’re at risk of going backwards.”

By:

I am a Senior Editor at Forbes, leading our coverage of the workplace, careers and leadership issues. Before joining Forbes, I wrote for the Washington Post for more than a decade covering

Source: As Economic Concerns Rise, Executives Are Reporting Record-High Stress—And Defaulting To Old Office Habits

.

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How To Increase Your Range of Motion And Why It’s Central To Your Health

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Heard of the phrase: range of motion? This term, which is often shortened to ROM, refers to how much joint and muscle movement you have.

How much flexibility you have in your joints will differ from person to person, with one study conducted by the CDC (opens in new tab) revealing that your ROM can be influenced by your gender, age and lifestyle. If you’re trying to improve your ROM, massages, stretching and using some of the best foam rollers can help you work towards increasing your overall flexibility.

Along with helping you complete daily tasks, like bending down to tie your shoe, your ROM can also help to reduce the feeling of joint stiffness, improve muscular function and help you live a better quality of life.

So, to discover how to increase your ROM we decoded the science and spoke to certified fitness trainer Nicole Thompson from the American Council on Exercise (opens in new tab) (ACE) and Helen O’Leary, physiotherapist and Pilates instructor at Complete Pilates (opens in new tab).

What does range of motion mean?

Thompson says: “Range of motion can be defined as ‘the number of degrees through which an articulation will allow one of its segments to move’.”

But to help understand this term a little more, Thompson recommends thinking about the meaning of flexibility, as the two concepts are closely related. “Flexibility is the ‘ability to move joints through their normal full ranges of motion’,” Thompson tells us. “So typically, the more flexible you are, the better your range of motion. Essentially, ROM is a reflection of flexibility.”

How do you know whether you have a good ROM? “There is an ideal length of muscle fiber in which the muscle will function optimally,” Thompson says. “However, if the fibers are too short (or sometimes too long) that can cause stiffness in the muscle and therefore limit the range of motion a joint will have. If the muscle fibers are at an optimal length and have enough elasticity, the muscles will allow the joint to move to optimal degrees.”

Nicole Thompson is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist, Group Fitness Instructor, and Health Coach as well as an ACE Senior Fitness Specialist and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She holds an M.A. in Sport and Performance Psychology and studied Fitness Instruction/Exercise Science at the University of California, San Diego. Her love of health, fitness, and learning landed her at the American Council on Exercise in 2015 where she continues to cultivate those passions.

Why is range of motion important?

As we’ve seen, maintaining good flexibility is super important, especially as we age. And the best flexibility exercises can help you stay on top of your ROM.

As Thompson explains: “Range of motion is the result of flexibility. And flexibility is an essential component of fitness and one’s ability to perform activities of daily living. A flexibility routine can help improve ROM, reduce stiffness and injury, improve muscular function and can even improve your mood.”

But not staying on top of your flexibility can lead to health and wellbeing problems later down the line. Thompson tells us: “If there are muscle imbalances, as a result of altered muscles lengths/length-tension relationships around the joint, that alters the joint mechanics, which result in postural misalignments, faulty loading, and ultimately pain, injury, and/or compensation.”

How can you improve your range of motion?

1. Massage can help with your range of movement

If done consistently and by a professional, massages can help increase your ROM. Thompson says: “Massage can help relax muscles by increasing blood flow to muscles, decreasing knots (which are believed to be inflammation or microtrauma to muscle fibers that can restrict ROM), and can help fascia be more pliable. Fascia is a connective tissue that covers all the body’s compartments like a web.”

And research backs this point up. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science (opens in new tab) published a study which looked into the effect of massage therapy on the range of motion of the shoulder and concluded that massage therapy ‘significantly improved the shoulder range of motion, especially the flexion and abduction’. While a second review, published in Frontiers in Physiology (opens in new tab), concurred, stating that even with just 15 minutes of massage some increases in ROM were spotted.

2. Use of a foam roller

Foam rollers are a form of self-myofascial release technique and can be adopted as part of a warm up or recovery program.

According to one review published in Frontiers in Physiology (opens in new tab), foam rollers can also be used to ‘increase your ROM’ by performing simple back and forth movements over the roller to ‘exert mechanical pressures on soft tissues via the weight of the body (or the force of the upper limbs)’.

And Thompson agrees, adding: “Myofascial release, whether done by foam rolling or massage, attempts to relieve tension and thus improve flexibility.”

3. Drinking more water

We all know that drinking water is important to our overall health. But it’s believed that guzzling down some H2o can also work towards increasing your ROM.

“Since water is present and needed in tendons, ligaments, and muscles — proper hydration can help optimize muscle performance,” Thompson says. “Water can also help lubricate joints and tissues so they can be more elastic.”

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics (opens in new tab) revealed that collagen fibers are influenced by hydration levels and might be responsible for the cause of stiffness.

Thompson adds: “Conversely, it’s common to get muscle cramps (involuntary contracting/shortening of the muscle) when you are dehydrated. Muscle cramps usually indicate to endurance athletes that they need water and electrolytes. Which further supports the idea of water contributing to muscle pliability.”

4. Stretching

One of the best ways to improve your ROM? By having a first-class stretching routine. According to Thompson, flexibility programs should include various forms of stretching such as:

  • Static stretching (which involves stretching a muscle to near its furthest point and then holding that position for at least 15 or 20 seconds).
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). This is a passive form of stretch that requires contraction and relaxation of muscles to their limit against a prop or partner.
  • Myofascial release (using a foam roller).

Best stretches to increase your range of motion

Wondering where to start when it comes to your stretches? O’Leary recommends adding the below to your routine to hit different areas of your body.

Helen O’Leary is a chartered physiotherapist and Pilates instructor/director of Complete Pilates (opens in new tab) in London. She graduated from Birmingham University in 2008 and in 2010 completed her Polestar Pilates Rehabilitation course and began to teach both mat and equipment Pilates. At Complete, O’Leary works with clients before and immediately after surgery to optimize their recovery.

  1. Bouncing roll down. This will help you touch your toes easier. O’Leary says: “Roll down towards the floor and let your arms hang, accepting that you probably aren’t touching the floor. Let one knee bend and keep the other straight to reach towards the floor. Lift your body up a little, switch knees and bounce back down again. Keep repeating 10 times before letting yourself hand and slowly coming back up. Try to keep the bounce smooth and not force anything.”
  2. Cat cow. This will stretch out your spine. O’Leary explains: “Get on all fours, tuck your tailbone under and allow your spine to arch towards the ceiling. Press into your hands to encourage your mid back to lift as well. From your tailbone, open your sit bones and let your spine go the other way into extension. try to keep pressing into your hands so that you don’t sag between them and lift your chest up and towards the ceiling. Keep your gaze somewhere in front of you so that you aren’t overextending your neck.
  3. Banded dislocations. This stretch will tackle your shoulders and chest. O’Leary adds: “Hold onto the ends of a long band. The longer or lighter the band the easier the movement will be. Take your hands up in front of you, pull apart and then go towards the ceiling and back behind you. Reverse the movement bringing them back up towards the ceiling and down in front of you. The more you pull apart the more you are likely to get round so make sure you find a place that is a challenge but possible without you bending your elbows.”

By: Becks Shepherd

Becks is a freelance journalist and writer writing for a range of titles including Stylist, The Independent and LiveScience covering lifestyle topics such as health and fitness, homes and food. She also ghostwrites for a number of Physiotherapists and Osteopaths. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her in the gym, learning new techniques and perfecting her form.

Source: How to increase your range of motion — and why it’s central to your health | Live Science

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The Federal Reserve’s Plan To Combat Inflation By Raising Interest Rates Carries The Risk of A Recession

A woman shops for chicken at a supermarket in Santa Monica, California, on September 13.Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images 

The last year of inflation has disproportionately hurt low-income and nonwhite families — those with the least flexibility in their monthly budgets to absorb higher prices. Now those same groups could be hurt by economic policymakers’ plan to tackle inflation through interest rate hikes, and in potentially longer-lasting ways.

Last month, leaders at the Federal Reserve predicted that, given their plans to continue raising rates, unemployment would rise from 3.7 percent (or 6 million people) to 4.4 percent by the end of 2023. In plain terms, this means an additional 1.2 million people would lose their jobs over the 15-month period. “I wish there was a painless way to do that,” Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell had said. “There isn’t.”

Other financial analysts projected even higher unemployment to result. Bank of America predicted unemployment would reach 5.6 percent by the end of 2023, translating to 3.2 million more people out of their jobs. Researchers at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in September that unemployment may need to reach as high as 7.5 percent to curb inflation, which would mean roughly 6 million people losing work.

The Federal Reserve raises interest rates to slow down consumption across the economy: As the cost of borrowing rises, the hope is that people buy fewer things, and prices stop spiraling higher. The latest data shows inflation still up roughly 8 percent compared to a year ago, and recent reporting in the New York Times suggests Fed leaders may even raise rates more aggressively into 2023 than they had previously envisioned.

The question is whether the Federal Reserve will be able to hit the brakes when they decide they’ve done enough — or whether it will be too late, and the economy will be hurtling downhill toward a recession that the Fed created but can’t control.

“One thing that’s a very open debate and a very important subtext to all the fights is the question of whether the Fed can actually increase unemployment just a little,” said Mike Konczal, the director of Macroeconomic Analysis at the Roosevelt Institute, a left-leaning think tank. “And with every million who lose their jobs, it’s that much harder to reintegrate them [into the labor force] later on.”

Stabilizing the economy, Konczal said, is like mending a garment. “You can pull at the threads, but if it tears you can’t just push it all back,” he said. “That’s certainly what keeps me very nervous, that the Fed is so worried it underreacted last year [to inflation] that now it might overreact.”

Some economic experts and journalists are asking if the current pain of inflation outweighs the suffering of a potential recession, and if there are less blunt tools the federal government could be leveraging instead.

“To have a smaller paycheck due to inflation, is that really worse than having no paycheck at all?” Today, Explained host Noel King asked Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari last week. “There’s not an easy answer,” Kashkari acknowledged, ultimately arguing that unemployment affects fewer people than inflation, and it’s easier for the government to target assistance to those who might be hurt.

But higher unemployment and recessions don’t just affect those who lose their jobs, and the assumption that the government would be willing or even able to provide targeted assistance to those pushed out of the labor market beyond the maximum six months of traditional (and relatively meager) unemployment benefits seems highly uncertain, given how Democrats’ more generous pandemic stimulus policies have been blamed for contributing to inflation in the first place.

Experts say the country still lacks the infrastructure to deliver more targeted aid, and with Democrats barely even mounting a defense of their pandemic assistance, whether there’s political oxygen — let alone technological capacity — to help those in a recession remains unclear.

On top of all this, if rate hikes do push millions more people out of work, those who would likely bear the biggest brunt of that job loss and take the longest to recover are the same groups suffering most now from inflation: low-income workers, workers with less education, and people of color.

Missing a “soft landing” means millions more people could lose their jobs

The workers who are most vulnerable to near-term layoffs work in construction and mortgage lending, and sell products like TVs and cars. These are so-called “interest-sensitive” industries, particularly responsive to changes in interest rates and borrowing costs. The next hit would be those working in firms that are particularly exposed to financial speculation — like traders and tech companies built around equity valuation.

The Federal Reserve’s goal is to achieve a so-called “soft landing” — meaning they want to lower inflation without throwing the economy into a recession.

Earlier this year Powell, the Fed chair, explained their goal was to make it harder for people to switch jobs, since job-switching and the fierce competition to hire workers were driving up wages. In this scenario, maybe a business eyeing higher interest rates would post fewer new jobs or decide not to fill vacant roles.

Maybe an employee would see the hiring landscape as less friendly and decide to stay put. “The idea is there’s a whole lot of activity happening that we don’t see by just looking at the unemployment rate,” said Konczal, of the Roosevelt Institute. “So in this scenario, where it becomes harder to switch to new jobs, the economy still cools without unemployment going up.”

Konczal says there’s some evidence that Powell’s “soft landing” argument has been bearing out over the past two months — the number of new job openings has slowed, as have the number of workers voluntarily switching to take another job. Wage data expected at the end of October should provide a clearer picture of where things stand.

But many experts are pessimistic that inflation can really come down without driving up unemployment, and say that if the Federal Reserve wants to see a genuine drop in prices it will have to force layoffs in less “interest-sensitive” industries, even if that increases the risk of a recession. Fewer people simply work in interest-sensitive fields like manufacturing than they did decades ago.

“That’s where face-to-face services like hospitality start to take the hit,” said Josh Bivens, the research director at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “Recessions can have big multiplier effects. Layoffs typically start in construction and then radiate onward, and things can get pretty bad if you have a big spiral.”

It’s harder for less educated, low-income, and nonwhite people to find work after layoffs

While some policymakers are trying to figure out if they could reduce inflation while keeping unemployment around 4 or 5 percent, other economists are sounding the alarm on what even this optimistic aggregate figure obscures — the unemployment rate for Black people is generally double that of white people, and for Hispanic people it’s typically 1.5 times the rate.

In one recent study, researchers found that lowering interest rates disproportionately helped the employment prospects for Black workers, women, and those without a high school diploma. It makes sense — if employers are facing increased competition for labor, they may be less likely to discriminate in the hiring process. Relatedly, over the past year, workers with criminal records and workers with disabilities were more in demand than they have been, as employers struggled to fill vacancies.

“It’s just a truism that when bad things happen in an economy, it’s the marginalized people, the people with less power, who are hurt fastest and most,” said Wendy Edelberg, the director of the Hamilton Project, an economics division within the Brookings Institution. “That should be fiscal policymakers’ laser focus, at all times but particularly in a downturn.”

The government is less likely to offer aid to workers who lose their jobs

When the pandemic hit, and millions lost their jobs or had their working hours reduced, the federal government responded with an array of financial policies to ease the pain such as expanded unemployment benefits, three rounds of stimulus checks, rental assistance, monthly cash deposits for parents with kids, hundreds of billions for state and local governments, and subsidies for businesses — big and small.

The investments kept millions out of poverty and evictions below historic averages, and are credited generally with helping the economy rebound much faster than following past downturns, and more quickly than other nations that had less robust stimulus policies.

But now Republicans have latched onto that federal aid as one of the top reasons inflation is at its highest point in four decades. They blame the Biden administration for putting too much money in people’s pockets, allowing them to spend too much and drive up prices. Some argue the American Rescue Plan was simply too big, or not targeted enough to those who really needed help. Economists disagree over how much the pandemic policies are to blame but Democrats, notably, are not touting their investments on the campaign trail, as voters cite inflation as a top election concern.

Republicans are expected to win control of the House, and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has for months attacked Democrats’ Covid policies for driving inflation. This raises the question: If the economy does spiral and workers lose their jobs or their workable hours, what kind of assistance might they expect to receive in that scenario?

“It’s one of the reasons I’m so worried about the Fed potentially overshooting, that we just won’t do that much to help people since we’re told that helping people too generously is what got us into this mess,” said Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. “I think that’s wrong, but I’m still totally worried about this dynamic.” Bivens also warned that if Republicans control Congress, it might be in their interest to prolong economic hardship ahead of the next presidential election.

“If the Fed slips the economy into recession, what kinds of tools and political capital will be available? That’s a real concern that we aren’t talking about and aren’t being honest with ourselves,” said Mark Paul, an economist at Rutgers who has argued raising rates is the wrong response to the inflation crisis. “In the pandemic, policymakers reacted in a far better way than they have in our lifetime, where, rather than the economy taking 10 years to get to pre-Covid levels, it essentially took 1.5 years. The narrative now is that the government overshot, but the question is what were the other options and what would those have led to?”

Edelberg of the Hamilton Project said if there is a downturn, she hopes we can get “targeted relief” to those most in crisis, so that it only has modest effects on inflation. “We should do that with eyes wide open — knowing it will boost aggregate demand a little bit and that will be okay because a policy should have more than one objective,” she said.

Edelberg acknowledged the country isn’t exactly positioned to distribute targeted relief — the nation’s unemployment insurance system remains in need of serious upgrades. “We should be improving the system so we can find the people who need to get the money, so we don’t need to do things like send checks to everyone,” she said. “We do not have that infrastructure now because we haven’t really valued it.”

Slow wage growth affects even those who keep their jobs

It took 10 years after the Great Recession for wages to finally start rising, long after unemployment had gone back down. Part of this was fueled by state and local minimum wage increases, but part of it, experts believe, was due to a finally tightening economy.

Workers have enjoyed increased power over the past two years amid the even tighter post-pandemic labor market. Wages have gone up, especially for workers at the lower end of the income spectrum, and especially among those who switched their jobs. In 2021, wages grew by 4.5 percent on average, the fastest rate in almost four decades.

Now that we’re finally seeing broad-based gains in the economy, progressive economists warn that aggressive Fed policy could make those raises disappear. One major risk of a recession is slowed wage growth, which can impact everyone, not just those who lose their jobs. Even modest economic downturns can significantly reduce the chance of employers handing out raises.

The Federal Reserve has been explicit that its goal is to reach 2 percent inflation — meaning prices would continue to rise in that scenario, just hopefully more slowly and predictably. But if wages are not also rising, then families will still feel worse off and struggle to afford basic necessities.

“This wage growth angle is, by far, the most important reason why just looking at the rise of unemployment in a recession is a radical understatement of how many workers are adversely affected by recessions,” Bivens wrote in July.

One big fear for inflation watchers is the risk of a so-called “wage spiral” — a scenario where wage increases cause price increases, which in turn cause more wage increases. The concern isn’t baseless; wage spirals have happened before, most notably in the US in the 1970s, but it’s certainly not an inevitability. The labor movement was also much stronger four decades ago — over a third were unionized compared to 6 percent of private sector workers today — giving workers the kind of bargaining power they simply lack now.

Fears of a wage spiral have been dissipating somewhat. Wage growth is still higher than pre-Covid levels but has been slowing down this year. Earlier this month, researchers with the IMF concluded that wage spiral risks “appear contained” for now.

What else could be done?

Some economists and writers have warned that raising interest rates further is unlikely to curb some of the root causes of inflation — such as the war in Ukraine and factory shutdowns — and that inflation would come down next year regardless as supply chains get back on track.Others say more attention should be on things like investigating corporations for raising their prices far beyond the cost increases for raw materials.

The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy held a hearing on these concerns in late September, and three Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill in May that would seek to ban price gouging during market disruptions. Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, pointed to what he called “an extraordinary increase in profit shares in a relatively short period” — rising from 23.9 percent in 2019 to 26 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Some centrist and conservative analysts have framed higher unemployment and a possible recession as simply a necessary if regrettable stage in the life cycle of an economy, almost like a biological reset. “The Fed’s rate hikes will hurt,” said the right-leaning Washington Post editorial board. “That’s unavoidable.”

But “the idea that severe recessions are necessary is absolutely not true,” said Konczal. “That’s the whole point of having a Federal Reserve and macroeconomics. And the idea that recessions are somehow regenerative and healing to the economy is also wrong.”

Whether one needs higher-than-expected unemployment or lower-than-existing GDP to bring down inflation is not really clear. “People are not sure if that’s true,” said Konczal. “It’s a small sample size, and we have only so many economies that you can test.”

Others have argued that fiscal policy — as opposed to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy — demands more attention to combat inflation. (Fiscal policy refers to a government’s decision to tax and spend, whereas monetary policy is about a central bank’s control over the flow of money and credit.) Fiscal policy can be more targeted, but it can also be difficult to pass through the legislative process, and take far longer to have an economic effect.

For example, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has called for a “production agenda” that would involve new investments in child care, housing, and community college to bring down prices and train Americans to work. These strategies, if successful, would take years however to trickle out. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) similarly argued this past summer that Congress investing in child care would help bring more parents into the workforce, which could counteract inflation, though pouring more money into child care amid a worker shortage, conversely, could also worsen it.

In August, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) introduced a bill that would place price controls on utilities, food, and housing, bolster the scope of the White House supply chain disruption task force, and authorize better data collection on corporate profiteering. (Price controls are controversial, and led to soaring prices after they were lifted in the 1970s.)

Paul, the Rutgers economist, helped advise Bowman on his bill and told Vox that he believes the Federal Reserve is not taking seriously its dual congressional mandate for both price stability and maximum employment. “Right now the Fed seems to be focused on price stability at all costs,” Paul said. “Full employment be damned.”

Source: The Federal Reserve’s plan to combat inflation by raising interest rates carries the risk of a recession – Vox

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Inflation data suggests that the Bank of England should be doing precisely nothing with… Tax Research UK

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Living an International Life    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/382455/
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LocalAgencyBox  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/359468
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