If you look at the Dow Jones average, it sure looks like our economy is recovering and moving along pretty nicely. The international picture averaged is equally rosy from a recovery point of view.
As a micro-business owner, I can't help but be pleased to see the markets go up. I'm hoping that my prospective consulting and software customers will be optimistic about the future and spend some money on their infrastructure.
That's not how things are going though. Spring was awful and seemed to correspond to the official part of the war in Iraq. I had more sales in the summer than now. And I have an international (mostly English-speaking) market. Since I've been improving my product, my web presence and been getting some recognition, I suspect the phenomenon is not a personal one.
People just aren't sure what's going to happen next. We learned how to trim back in the most recent downturn. Lean and mean. There's enough fear and uncertainty floating around that people don't want to get caught holding the bag. So they aren't hiring - much. They aren't spending as much on infrastructure as they would have during the *new economy* boom years: 1993 to 2000.
The truth is - they are behaving rationally. The stock market and expansion that occurred during the *boom* was kind of crazy. It lasted so long that there's a tendency to think that those times constitute the norm. A brief perusal of dot.con will disabuse you of that notion. Maybe what's happening right now is the baseline... about medium-strength economy or maybe even a little on the high side since the 04 election motivates our politicians and bureaucrats to pump up the economy. I'm still hoping for better days ahead, but I'm not counting on it.
Now that we are in an environment where lots of services can be delivered remotely, outsourcing to either Cheapville, USA or cheaper markets overseas (like India) is likely to increase. That means many jobs that would have gotten created here, will be created elsewhere. Jobless recovery.
The stock market does not care if we have more jobs. It watches whether companies are profitable. Profits *may* be enhanced by job cutting and outsourcing. I'm hoping that outsourcing is partially a buzz phenomenon that will cool off a bit as (1) companies discover that hiring locally has its advantages and (2) cheap overseas labor markets like India start getting more expensive.
I have no doubt, on the other hand, that relying on permanent full-time employees alone is a mistake for most companies. We are in a turbulent environment and it makes sense to have a core group of employees (sometimes that's just you) and then hire temps or contractors on a project basis when the demand is there. It's more flexible. When things are turbulent, you need flexibility.
I'm not an employee. I'm one of those independent contractors who keeps things lean and expands with additional subcontractors as needed. Working in this environment is a little like surfing. You take your best shot. I could give up my own business and my independent ways but there's not really a *good* job market to go back to. It went away during the last 18 years I've been doing my own thing.
Sure, there are still good jobs - quite a few of them. But companies merge, split and go out of business pretty often and jobs get cut or farmed out. You are more likely to get a contract than a job these days when you go looking for a job. I love the freedom and creativity of having my own company and I'll live with the ups and downs in income and requirement that I get my own health insurance and pension.
I like being on the leading edge of social change. I figure I'm gaining the skills that will serve me well in the years ahead. I'm building goodwill, visibility, equity and brand in myself and my own undertakings. I'm connecting with my web presence, weblog and by email - and I even get together with people on a regular basis.
Tech Ronin is devoted to exploring and commenting on our 21st century opportunities and predicaments - examining what we are doing and can do to make our lives more satisfying and fulfilling.