By Dennis Yu
Despite some glimmers of hope in the U.S. economy, experts continue to see a perplexing economic trend known as a “jobless recovery.” Employers are reluctant to hire new workers, not because demand is low, but because they’re worried about hiring too soon after the worst recession since the Great Depression.
In March, 15 million adults were out of work in the United States, nearly 10 percent of the working population. Average full-time income for the same period was $38,428, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ten years ago, the unemployment rate was 3.3 percent and the average wage was $29,952. Thus, the unemployment rate has exactly tripled, while real income (net of inflation), is about the same.
I don’t think the unemployment rate will ever get back to 3 percent, no matter how healthy the economy. In fact, the greater our economic growth, the greater the unemployment rate, and let me explain why. Bear with me on a bit of undergraduate economics and it will be worth the effort.
Structural unemployment is due to mass industries shifting– buggy whip manufacturers going out of business, causing workers to be re-trained on automobile assembly. Usually this occurs in manufacturing or technology sectors. All those people who used to switchboard operators have to find another job– those factory workers who used to make record players now learn to assemble Nintendo Wiis. The faster industries shift, the more structural unemployment at any given time, as workers adjust to re-training and finding new jobs. Let’s assume acceleration in technology permanently adds a couple points to the unemployment rate.
Frictional unemployment is due to people changing jobs — whether willfully or being terminated — not because their industry has become obsolete. Fifty years ago, the average worker could expect a 20 year career with one company and a pension. Not counting anomalies such as war, someone might work only a couple jobs in their lifetime — perhaps hopping jobs for better pay or a more attractive position at a similar company.
If someone has worked 3 jobs in their lifetime, that means they have 2 periods of unemployment in-between those 3 jobs. And for professional workers, recessions notwithstanding, each of those periods last about 6 months to find a comparable replacement job. 2 periods of unemployment at 6 months each is one year of unemployment during a career.
Nowadays, people job-hop frequently. Contracting is quite common and technology has made the entry to entrepreneurship far easier. The average 20-year-old doesn’t expect to hold jobs longer than two to three years. That means they’ll work about 10 jobs over the course of their career, likely in different industries. That means 9 periods of unemployment, which is 4.5 years.
10 percent the new normal?
And each time they are unemployed, it’s not necessarily easier to find a job the next time — even adjusting for the fact that older people may have a harder time finding jobs, younger college grads may be more technically adept, or the current “jobless recovery” that’s now underway. With so much job switching, 10 percent isn’t that bad for unemployment. It’s just like the apartment vacancy rate versus single family residential vacancy rate. You’d expect apartment vacancy rates to be higher, since people move in and out faster than in single family homes.
Take the housing analogy all the way and you could say the average worker is checking into a hotel for a few days versus building a home they’re living in for the rest of their life. Hang on — we’re about to talk about the impact to Internet marketing– it’s coming…
Think about it. There are 14.9 million unemployed people in the United States right now. For our discussion, the true number is far higher, since many folks are underemployed– working jobs that are “okay” for now, working part-time instead of full-time, or having given up on the job search altogether. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t factor these 3 figures into calculating the unemployment rate, which allows for the statistics to show whatever is most favorable. Lies, damn lies, and statistics– as the saying goes.
Picture the unemployed worker for a moment (maybe you are one of them). Maybe you were laid off from a job you held for the last 12 years and now realize your skills are obsolete. Maybe you’re out of college and the job market sucks. On the bright side, perhaps your boss was a jerk and this window gives you an opportunity to open that small business you’ve always dreamed about. Maybe now that Dad has to take a lower paying temp job, Mom has to get some part-time work (no offense to stay at home dads), so she’s looking for “work from home” jobs.
We’ve gone from 5 million unemployed people to 15 million unemployed people. What are these people going to do to make money?
Typical side jobs can’t fill gap
Retail jobs and “get rich quick” schemes aren’t going to fill that void. Working at McDonalds (no offense to the McJob) will not replace someone’s former income. And buying real estate with no money down has exposed for what it is. As for multi-level-marketing, if you can sell enough tupperware, makeup, or unregulated health supplements to earn a true living, my hat’s off to you. But I don’t see 15 million people pulling in $38,000 a year doing any of those things.
We’re about to get to the punch line of this article — the tsunami that will hit us soon– so bear with me a bit further as we build this up. Consider a parallel tsunami that’s coming– the aging Baby Boomers and what this means for Social Security, our health care system, the national debt, and the sale of “old people” products. As a country, we’ve done little to prepare for a permanently high unemployment rate, to create brand new industries to replace the ones that are defunct.
Would you agree that most of this job growth is going to have to come from small businesses, since the large corporations are not efficient enough to adapt?
Meanwhile, people’s attention is going from traditional media to online media, and since they’re spending their time there, advertising dollars are starting to flow over, eventually settling in equilibrium in proportion to where people are spending their time. We don’t have to repeat the statistics showing the decline of radio, TV, newspapers, and the yellow pages. Facebook is over 400 million users and represents 25 percent of pageviews in the United States and 7 percent of unique visitors. Casual games that tie local, social, and mobile are the hottest area in this already hot area.
About $412 billion was spent on advertising in the United States last year, according to MarketingCharts.com. Google was about $20 billion of that. Traditional yellow pages was more, believe it or not. Forrester estimates that in 2012, interactive ad spend will increase to $61 billion. I believe a disproportionate amount of this increase will come from local businesses. We also know that 83 percent of small businesses are aware of online advertising, but less than 8 percent are actually doing it.
There are 5.9 million businesses that have payroll in the United States, according to Census data, of which 65 percent have less than 10 employees. I think we can safely predict that this percentage will increase because of entrepreneurship and more efficiency in serving niches.
So let’s put these trends together:
* There are 10 million new unemployed people in the United States who are unlikely to be fully absorbed by the existing sectors of the economy.
* People are going on-line to do research– and the ad dollars are flowing to meet them.
* Local is 25-30 percent of search queries, but only a single digit percentage of small businesses are advertising online.
* 40 percent of these local businesses don’t have websites– and the ones that do are usually poorly optimized.
* Online ad agencies are unable to service local clients because they cannot deliver local support.
* Facebook is where consumers and businesses are spending their time to connect, learn, and transact– doing so especially via their phones and via games.
Meet the local online marketer
The combination of this is the birth of millions of local online ad agencies. Think of Mary Kay or Amway to a degree never seen before– except they’re selling real services in their community, which are desperately needed and eminently measurable. People are nearly immune to traditional advertising– a recent New York Times article estimates the average consumer is exposed to over 2,000 ads per day. To break through this clutter, advertisers must either shout above the din or rely upon trusted agents to sell.
Jane McGonigal gave a TED talk here on how social gaming will change the world. My opinion is that a few firms will rise to service this need — to provide tools to the segment of these 10 million educated workers to open up their own local ad agency in their neighborhood, allowing them to leverage relationships they already have. No existing firm, I believe, yet has the business model that can successfully reach these workers, nor can provide sustainable value to the businesses they serve.
Increasingly, people are not working for lifetime employment — they are working for themselves or as contractors within a larger organization. Structural and frictional unemployment will never allow the unemployment figures to get back to 3 percent ever again.
Contractors and small business owners are held accountable to results, as opposed to being paid a salary. Some firms will build a transparent, performance-based business to meet this coming need.
by Jonny Chan
Facebook’s 400 million user milestone has generated plenty of attention, but guess what? There’s even faster growth somewhere else: Fans.
Facebook now has more than 3 million active Pages and half of those are created by local businesses. And according to the company’s latest figures, Fans of pages are accelerating at an unbelievable 20 million a day, or equivalent to the U.S. population every two weeks.
With that kind of growth, it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when Facebook will start indexing its Fan Pages like Google started indexing web pages 5 years ago.
Now, Facebook is introducing Community Pages. Their goals are to bringing people closer within the community to support different causes.
What is a community page?
Community Pages allows users to build a fan base around their community and to generate support for their favorite cause or topic as described by Facebook:
“Generate support for your favorite cause or topic by creating a Community Page. If it becomes very popular (attracting thousands of fans), it will be adopted and maintained by the Facebook community.”
How does it differ from other pages?
As far as I know, their functionality and features are exactly the same compared to other Facebook pages. The default community page has only two tabs: Wall and Info, but it does allow the creator to add more tabs by selecting on the cross button.
Recently, Facebook has revamped a lot of interface on its pages, such as changing Become a Fan to Like button (http://www.dennis-yu.com/facebook-fans-concept-being-changed-to-like), modifying its exit page to entice people to sign up for Facebook mobile service. Nevertheless, such changes will surely bring a better user experience and allow more fans to engage within the Facebook community.
P.S Did you know about that Facebook has a peace program as well? Check it out at http://peace.facebook.com.
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Editor’s Note: This is a letter sent by BlitzLocal CEO Dennis Yu to the American Marketing Association’s Alli Libb, who invited members and friends to the AMA’s “Demystifying Social Media Measurement” webinar. To social media, add search engine optimization and web best practices to the list of things that need not be mysterious.
Hope you’re well.
Here is a screenshot of the Social Media Measurement email I got today– the register button or link is not visible, since images are off (see gray box circled in red at bottom).
Most consumers will see the same thing, as that’s the default setting for webmail applications such as Gmail and Yahoo mail. Images off is also the default setting for Google Apps (corporate gmail– such as what we use), which is powering the majority of Fortune 500 corporations and educational institutions.
We see this issue frequently. Good news is that there’s an easy fix. Just make sure to include alt tags on images. This is a great web practice, too, since people who have slow loading pages can still see what the images and links are labeled as.
Calls to action should also be links, not images.
If you implement this, you should definitely see increases to your open rates. Hope that helps!
By Dennis Yu