To Understand the Weak U.S. Hiring Numbers, Look in the Mirror

Finances mirrorDon't bring your work stress home -- it's a staple tip in self-help books. But what about bringing your personal financial feelings to work? If you run or own a business, those gut instincts may meld with and affect your professional decisions. Has the downturn caused you to cancel the landscaping service? Scale back the housekeeper? If that's what is happening under your own roof, it's not too big a leap to understand why you might be tentative to hire, and why the nation's job numbers are so dismal.

"There is almost a universal misunderstanding of the 27 million businesses that create the vast majority of jobs in this country," Brian Hamilton, CEO of Sageworks, points out. "Only about 5,000 businesses in the country are public companies. The rest are privately held, run by people, who -- like the rest of us -- worry about paying their bills, sending their kids to college, and/or saving for retirement."

In other words, they're practical. They have to be. Hamilton goes on to argue it's only logical in this environment that such businesspeople would try to control their biggest operating cost -- personnel. "If someone told you that you might lose your job next month, would you start spending more money?" he asks.

If you treat your company's money the way you would your own, when it comes to hiring, the allure of "I'll just do it myself" is strong. And, as much as you might like to help someone land a job, it may also feel more humane to postpone. No one with half a heart wants to risk the potential guilt of having to fire someone they've just hired. I'll never forget the head of an exceptionally successful private firm saying, "I hate holiday parties. You meet all the kids, and then when you fire their parents, you see their sad little faces when you try and go to sleep at night."

In 2008, Scrooge hit the holiday parties. CEOs of companies small and large may not be seeing many kids' faces these days. But with unemployment remaining above 9%, sadness abounds.

We'll be speaking on-camera with Brian Hamilton next week about why hiring has been so slow to recover. If you've got specific questions for him, let us know in the comments.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I'm starting a podcast along these same lines called Tales of the Great Recession to share peoples stories of long term joblessness, from the struggle of a long search to the joy of finding a job, and what you learned in-between. Please send your stories to The first podcast will be available free through itunes on 7/22, and I plan on doing it as a weekly podcast for as long as the stories keep coming in.

July 16 2011 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Help bussinesses hire .Apeal obama care and watch job growth .The way it was passed makes bussinesses Unwilling to hire Apeal it Nowunless you like whats happening to jobs.

July 13 2011 at 12:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to kris's comment

I think that you're lost.

July 13 2011 at 9:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Until Obama is gone, and until our representatives in congress grow-up and act responsibly, nothing will improve

July 12 2011 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Greetings Lou

The reason there are no jobs is because those people at the top who caused the conditions for the collapse that lead to the bailout, are still in charge. The few sacrificial lambs whose companies were left to founder started the great migration to the unemployment lines, next came those that were encouraged and in some cases financially assited by the government to pick off what they wanted out of the remains of the foundered companies. In addition, those companies that would eventually be bailed out created their own group of unemployment bound refugees as they could not keep a group of people that would be doing the same type of work. Then of course comes the bail out or excuse me TARP as its known by its stage name. Now the purpose of this was to promote lending by having the jackals that caused this porblem do so out of the "goodness of their hearts" as they received essentially a no strings attached check from good ol' Uncle Sam. As everyone knows, the loans became almost as hard to get as the winning lottery numbers, the banks (financial insitutions) got larger, credit got tighter, credit limits were lowered faster than the New Year's ball at Times Square and minimums increased in direct result to this move. In addition, some services that as a "long time valued customer" you received for free, were now provided for a fee. In addition, many banks changed their balance minimums along with fees and interest rates. So what is the first news we hear about after the checks have been cashed? Even larger bonuses issued by those institutions that were supposed to be using this money for loans. The next story was even more of a sick joke as media outlets keep reporting how quickly all this money was paid back......of course it was easy for them to pay it back, more and higher fees, higher interest rates, more unemployment for the innocent. Now the people that are suppose to be working for us are locked in arguments rivalying kids asking why they can't have what someone else is having. All this arguing about cutting this or cutting that and this pathetic attemps to look like they're doing their jobs as opposed to what they really are doing is trying to keep them by not having the stones to try anything that may be unpopular with their bases is sickening. Meanwhile, the many here in the REAL WORLD....must try to find any position, even those we may have done back in our high school days for essentially the same pay in order to try make ends meet and try to maintain a sense of normalcy for our families. Now I'm not one who thinks governement should help us out but I am one that believes that if they did their jobs for a change we would not be in this situation. While not a monopoly, the way such a small number of companies control all the financial activity is kind of like the scene in the Godfather when the meeting crime families took place as they discussed how they should do "business" in their territories.

July 12 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Simply put, the construction industry and all of the ancillary business sectors (real estate, suppliers, furnishings, etc.) tied to it collapsed en masse more than three years ago, and has not recovered. It has not recovered because the housing market remains in the depression created then, and is sinking lower. The plunging housing market (that took with it all of the subprime borrowers' neighbors, whether or not they were/are making mortgage payments on their under-water mortgages) hasn't recovered because the President isn't the bold leader we expected, and Republicans are Republicans who see all of this as an opportunity to reverse - at long last - the society-saving measures enacted by FDR and furthered by President Johnson. President Obama and his financial advisors have refused to take the housing collapse seriously, or to initiate the measures needed to resurrect it. We continue to founder and will until real leadership emerges, if ever.

July 12 2011 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to hustonlaw's comment

So much for "hope and change"! Isn't the toothy grin worth something?

July 12 2011 at 1:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bggdg's comment

I am an ear man myself--

July 13 2011 at 8:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

Are you a racist?

July 12 2011 at 1:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The unemployment will remain high for a very long time, even if the economy improves to the point of firing on all cylinders. The reason?? Companies, particularly the large corporations & medium size ones have learnt to do more with less, in other words they are milking their employees to hell & back & making one person to do 4 people's work, long hours, punishing schedules, etc, etc, Every time you go to a major store or bank or even post office how long do you have to wait to get service? They all have numerous check stands but only couple are open, in other words they are racking up profits at our expenese & using our time. Wall Mart makes 3 to 4 billion dollars of profit every quarter & yet they only have a few checker stands open at any one time & takes you a long time to get served, can they not employ a few extra staff at each store? Just a few? Can banks like Wells Frago, BoA not afford to employ a few extra staff? Huge corporations that are making billions & billions of dollars profit right now. Get the picture? If every sizeable company hired couple of people then the unemployment will be reduced drastically over night. Instead of doing this they are having all this profits go into shareholders pockets or just sit on the sidelines not utilized. So high unemployment is here to stay unfortunately!!

July 12 2011 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to simons776's comment

I can't remember the last time I was inside a bank. Why would I go inside when there's a drive thru ATM sitting in the parking lot? And my local grocery store has multiple self check-out kiosk's. I walk right up, scan my own groceries, and am out the door in a flash. I hope neither hires more employees. I don't want to pay more for groceries or banking services. If I do pay more for either, I'd have to buy less of something else. And that would mean someone who actually does something useful would have to lose their job.

July 12 2011 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

simons--you are not a happy person

July 13 2011 at 8:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kathy and Frank

The main reason there aren't any jobs in the U.S. is because the jobs are being sent overseas! And the only reason this is done is so that the corporate executives can make more money. Any American company that ships its jobs offshore should not only NOT get a tax break, they should pay a huge fine. But all the politicians are in bed with corporate lobbyists--although the Republicans tend to be a bit more so. In the end, all politiicans are all guilty because those who aren't in bed with corporate lobbyists don't fight hard enough against those who are. The best way to resolve this is (a) Fine companies that ship jobs overseas and eliminate all their tax breaks and (b) make lobbying illegal.

July 12 2011 at 11:40 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Kathy and Frank's comment

Things will not get any better until, WE THE PEOPLE, make things happen.

July 12 2011 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After running successfu, quality businesses, for over 40 years, I see, some changes needed.
#1, We need discipline--Without discipline, who needs rules or laws? We need Capital punishment, Ugly Prisons, and spanking, back. --Not resorts, or hospitals, Real Punishment, for dasdardly deeds done.
#2, Just because a guy puts on a dark suit, and looks like a penguin, doesn't mean he's got a brain, or knows, anything. We ve got to Qualify candidates, by experience, not by Hollywood profile.
#3. We've got to rebuild our very embarassing judicial system.
#4. Cut off convenience funding to schools, like busing, sports, and part year,.Give Teachers the whip, and pay em accordingly, to instill discipline, and pride of knowing something.
Go back to teaching kids, old stuff, like addition & subtraction.
#5. Make Capital Punishment Mandatory, for any gov. person that does not work by the Old Golden Rule
#6. Put some Common Sense, back into this World.

July 12 2011 at 11:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bunkie's comment
Kathy and Frank

You're right about #2 and #6. The rest, however, would make things worse in this country, not better. Cutting off "convenience" funding for schools like bussing would make it impossible for some kids to get to school! And sports provide an important part of exercise and team work. Regarding prisons and capital punishment, it sounds as if you would like us to go back to public hangings. Howabout instead of making punishment something other than prison? What about community work (such as repairing our ailing infrastructure) or house arrest where the convicted have to pay for their own support? You are right about needing common sense. I just don't think we agree on what constitutes "common sense."

July 12 2011 at 11:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Its a govt led economy which means no productivity. A free enterprise economy means jobs and a climbing GDP.

Hey Dems, its the GDP not the GOP

July 12 2011 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One has to love the way some can twist words.What has come to pass in the last 3 years has nothing to do wall street . That one of the biggest rip-offs in this country was started by wall street and greed. That Goldman/Sacks and their pals in the whitehouse are not the ones behind this whole scheme.That these same people made billions while the rest of the country was put at risk. that the author of this artical wants us to believe the problem is not wall streets ,but ours.This is nothing more then a clear case of blaming the victim. It is easy to blame others . It is the new answer for everything.It also dose not take a genius to understand that many business,s are in troulbe .Some will never recover. The only place one should lay the blame for this is at the feet of wall street and the Bush whitehouse.

July 12 2011 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply