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Thoughts from the Frontline

Skills, Education, and Employment

May 11, 2013

"The large shortfall of employment relative to its maximum level has imposed huge burdens on all too many American households and represents a substantial social cost. In addition, prolonged economic weakness could harm the economy's productive potential for years to come. The long-term unemployed can see their skills erode, making these workers less attractive to employers. If these jobless workers were to become less employable, the natural rate of unemployment might rise or, to the extent that they leave the labor force, we could see a persistently lower rate of labor force participation."

- Janet L. Yellen, Vice-Chair, US Federal Reserve, March 4, 2013

It is graduation time, and this morning finds me swimming in a sea of fresh young faces as a young friend graduates, along with a thousand classmates. But to what? I concluded my final formal education efforts in late 1974, in the midst of a stagflationary recession, so it was not the best of times to be looking for work. It turned out that I had a far different future ahead of me than I envisioned then. But I would trade places with any of those kids who graduated today, as my vision of the next 40 years is actually very optimistic. With all the advances in healthcare, technology, and communications that have come and will come, they will get to embrace a world full of opportunity; and yet, this generation is starting out with more than just a minor economic handicap.

This week's letter will explore changes in the work marketplace, changes that generated quite a lot of discussion at last week's Strategic Investment Conference. At the end of the letter I will also provide a link for qualified investors to listen in on a webinar conversation between Kyle Bass and me on another of the main topics last week: Japan. This is one you'll want to tune in to. (Warning: this letter will read fast but print long, as there are more than the usual number of charts and graphs, though the word count is actually shorter than usual.)

And a quick note up front on Japan. As of the last two weeks, Japanese investors are now net buyers of foreign bonds, and the yen has broken through 100 to the dollar. I think what is happening in Japan is going to be the nexus of a global flow of cash that will be unlike any we have ever seen. Attention MUST be paid. It is windshield time.

David Rosenberg: A Bond Bull Turns Bearish

How do we get to full employment and improved national education from the launching point of David Rosenberg's very recent call (at the conference and elsewhere) that we will soon see inflation and the onset of a bond bear market? I must say that he surprised a few of us with his conversion from bond bull to bond bear. But the reason why he converted…

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Laurence Saunders

May 11, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

So simple really. The super suits/skirts of business have gotten away with “leading” by identifying huge swaths of actual productive work roles and migrating them to locales where civil/workers rights are minimal. This skirting of U.S. worker protections is done primarily because these vulnerable workers can be strong armed into meeting unreasonable demands. Now our “leaders” have the opportunity to pontificate over the jobs famine disaster their actions have caused.