Job Cuts Will Continue Till Housing Market Recovers

by: Suman Chatterjee

If you are curious about the current employment condition, here's a snapshot for you.

Even after over 30,000 layoffs earlier this year, HSBC (HBC) still intends to curtail its employee base by a few hundreds more-- though this time, the axe falls in the UK. We are not sure if it will leave the Americans alone or not. Citigroup (NYSE:C) is all set to axe 4,500 jobs in order to survive the European debt crisis. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is looking for over 17,000 job cuts to save expenses in the coming year. McGraw-Hill Co. (MHP) has decided on 550 layoffs from its education unit. McAfee, owned by Intel Corp (NASDAQ:INTC), plans to curtail 250 jobs to keep up the company's growth in 2012. Even AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), the global research-based biopharmaceutical company, is letting 1,150 Americans go.

Whoa, alarming indeed! Although the U.S. unemployment rate slightly decreased this October due to an increase in the non-farm payroll employment, it seems set to soar once again in 2012 nonetheless.

Here's what you need to know. This is due to happen until the U.S. real estate market gets back on track. Why? Simply because no economy has ever been able to stand with its real estate industry crumbling down. Even Ben Bernanke couldn't mention one when asked earlier this year. Unfortunately, this sub-prime crisis led to a "mid-life crisis" for most Baby Boomers. People are submerged in mortgage-debts accumulated over the years.

Getting back to the unemployment point, do you know how many people who lost jobs in the recession were related to the real estate industry? Almost forty percent, as per the Federal Government. I would say that's an understatement.

During the 2006-2010 period, around 2 million people – about 22% of the total number of jobs lost – were related to the construction business. Another 1.6 million were fired due to lower spending by these construction workers. Doing the math, I fear it comes to a huge figure. But we are talking about what already been lost here. Is the depressed condition of the real estate market still affecting the present jobless condition?

Since 2006, the financial sector has lost about 500,000 jobs. In fact, the number of jobs in the financial sector in 2010 has actually shrunk as compared to 1993, while the population has increased by over 15%. Big banks such as Goldman Sachs are slashing their staff numbers, to make up for their loss in revenues – either because of hard and fast regulations, or the unstable housing economy. And it doesn't end here.

Due to the fall in housing values by over $7 trillion since 2006, consumer confidence has also dwindled, leading to lower spending-- and thus, persistent job layoffs from various other industrial sectors. So, a 2% decline in GDP results in a 1% rise in the unemployment rate, which is approximately 1.5 million. Wow! It seems it is much bigger than the previous 3.6 million that we calculated – almost 75% of all jobs lost.

One thing must be understood here. During any bubble, we see a huge surge of people getting into the industry, trying to make a quick buck. And when the bubble bursts, these are the first ones to become unemployed. But does it mean the bubble causes this unemployment? No, it doesn't. Some jobs are supposed to be there and some are not. Likewise, even though most jobs were realty-related, most of them were in excess due to the housing bubble, and would probably not be back.

However, things are improving. Although housing prices are still low, house sales have risen and we are almost reaching the 2003 level. As Warren Buffett says, “We will come back big time on employment when residential construction comes back. ... You will be surprised, in my view, how fast things change when that happens.” We are waiting for that.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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