The untold story behind January’s jobs report
Feb 4, 2022
Episode 594

The untold story behind January’s jobs report

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Plus, a round of Half Full/Half Empty that's totally by the book!

January’s employment report was released today, and it showed the U.S. economy added 467,000 jobs last month. The top-line numbers are shockingly good, but a closer look reveals troubling statistics for women hoping to return to the labor force. We discuss some of our takeaways from the report. Plus, there’s a troubling new dance trend on TikTok, and we play a round of our Friday favorite, Half Full/Half Empty!

Here’s everything we talked about today:

If anything makes you smile over the weekend, or if you have questions or comments, email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a voice message. We’re at 508-827-6278 (508-UB-SMART. )

Make Me Smart, February 4, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams:  Okay. Alrighty then. I guess we should get going.

Matt Levin: Let’s do it.

Kimberly Adams:  Hello, everyone. I’m Kimberly Adams, welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.

Matt Levin: And I’m Matt Levin. It’s Economics on Tap our version of Marketplace’s Happy Hour. Thank you for joining us.

Kimberly Adams: And thank you for joining us, Matt. Welcome to the show.

Matt Levin: I know it’s my make me smart debut. I’m, I’m a little anxious.

Kimberly Adams: Ah, you’ll be fine. We’ll make sure that Drew is nice to you for Half Full/Half Empty, which is the game that we play on Fridays. We also get to some news first and of course, this is the day that we drink. So what are you drinking?

Matt Levin: I am drinking gin on the rocks. Which is kind of like the the Matt special since I discovered that all the calories are in tonic little known fact. And so once I reached the age where I couldn’t, you know, metabolize a cracker without gaining like 15 pounds. I just switched to gin on the rocks. But that’s kind of – yeah.

Kimberly Adams: But the tonic helps you prevent you from getting malaria.

Matt Levin: That’s it. Yeah. Which British naval historians will know was the secret to success of the British Navy. But anyway, that’s another podcast.What are you drinking Kimberly, your your drinks are always more elaborate and interesting. I feel like then your co hosts typically. No, no shade anyone.

Kimberly Adams: I think I just like people get to choose what they invest their time in and I invest my time in cocktails. In this case, it’s mulled wine because it’s cold and rainy here in DC. And so I have made some spice, mulled wine and I put it in one of my fancier glasses just so I can feel very fancy.

Matt Levin: Nice. Looks nice. Is it good?

Kimberly Adams: Thank you. Yes, it’s quite tasty. And it’s  warm. That’s nice. So it makes me feel very cozy. Ah, okay, so I guess we should do the news, why don’t you go first.

Matt Levin: Okay, let’s start here. Kimberly, I know you are you a science fiction fan. Do you watch “Black Mirror?”

Kimberly Adams:  I saw like the first season, but I haven’t seen the more recent ones.

Matt Levin: Gotcha. Well, I highly recommend you finish it. It’s kind of like Twilight Zone for the social media age. That paints a creepingly accurate picture of dystopia. And every day I read stories that feel like a “Black Mirror” episode. And my news fix today is one of those stories so there is a new trend on Tik Tok. And that trend involves dancing Amazon drivers. Have you seen this on Tik Tok.

Kimberly Adams: No, I saw that you sent me a link earlier but I didn’t actually click it. I’m sorry. What is it?

Matt Levin: That’s okay, I won’t take offense. So basically people who are ordering stuff from Amazon will leave notes in the delivery instructions or they’ll leave a note on their door and they’ll say “Please dance for my surveillance camera, for my Ring camera.” Which Ring is that’s the you know camera associated with the doorbell which a lot of people have installed to make sure that their Amazon packages don’t get stolen. So I wish listeners could see your face right now. It’s very concerned. So Amazon drivers are obeying these instructions and they do a little dance and the ring camera records it and then the Tik Tok user posts that to Tik Tok and this has seemed to prove fairly popular, although not all Amazon workers are super super happy with these instructions because from their perspective, they’re worried that, “oh if I literally don’t dance in front of this camera, maybe this delivery gets a bad rating.” This comes from a story from Vice that I saw earlier this week. So that is my news fix.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, that’s really icky. Like, I can definitely imagine, you know, if you’re out on deliveries, and you know, it’s just the trudge and grind the day, and then someone’s like, “hey, take this moment to do a fun dance,” I might totally be the person be like, “Yeah, I’ll do a little happy dance. Why not?” But like, the idea of asking somebody to dance for you has so many additional connotations, especially given the demographics of the folks who typically work these jobs. And I didn’t click on the link to watch the video, but I did see the story when you put it in. And it reminded me of this piece from the Atlantic, I think it was several years ago, I brought it up,  this is from 2019. So pre-pandemic, and they called it the new servant class. And it’s one of these pieces that’s really stuck with me, because it talked about, you know, in our increasingly stratified and terrible economic inequality of a society, you have this growing number of people doing servant, what used to be the work of air quotes servants for the wealthy. And some of it was like, personal services for like, you know, your hair, skin, and nails and stuff like that. But the other part of it was gig work. And this was pre-pandemic. And I feel like that’s only gotten more intense, this idea of you have people who are at home a lot, and then the people who provide services to them. And the level of privilege it takes to ask those folks to dance for you is, is is quite something.

Matt Levin: I, I would tend to agree with that. Yeah, I mean, I do think probably in in some of these Tik Tok users’ mind, they think, let’s just spice up the day of the delivery worker, but there’s no like, self check. That’s like, let me really think about what I’m asking them to do here. So, you know, I always like to bring a little bit of dystopia to whatever conversation I’m having.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, it’s not hard given the world we live in today.

Matt Levin: Exactly.

Kimberly Adams: So mine is about the jobs numbers that came out today, which, you know, they’re really strong numbers.

Matt Levin: Shockingly good.

Kimberly Adams: Shockingly good as as many commentators said, however, not everybody is coming back to work. And every single month, the numbers reflect more and more, that this is still a recovery for some and there’s research from the National Women’s Law Center that shows – I’m just reading this from a piece and CNBC, that over a million men joined the labor force in January, compared to just 39,000 women. And there are 1.1 million fewer women in the labor force now compared to February 2020, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, and you know, now that interest rates are gonna start going up, this idea that keeping interest rates low was going to stimulate the economy, and the longer the economy was stimulated, the more people would be able to rejoin the labor force and all these things. And, you know, they’re getting ready to raise interest rates, when we still do have these disparities, we still have Black unemployment much higher than white unemployment, women not returning to the labor force in the same way. Now, are these problems the Federal Reserve can fix? Hmm, that’s that’s pretty debatable. But I think it’s just very fascinating when you look just below these top line numbers to see what’s actually going on in this economy. So that was mine. What did you notice about the jobs numbers?

Matt Levin: Well, I mean, so two things that I think are related to what you pointed out. One was everybody expected these numbers to be pretty dismal because of Omicron. And I think what’s particularly relevant for the disparity between men and women coming back to work is schools. I mean, the what was happening with Omicron in schools in January, which was in many places, was you know, kind of an unmitigated disaster, right where, you know, kids were unable to go to class and some schools had, you know, serious issues reopening during Omicron. So that jumped out at me. And then the second was just, you know, from the jobs report how surprisingly good it was. I mean, I guess the overall takeaway, I literally did a piece on Wednesday, that was like kind of prepping people for why this jobs report might be, you know, misleadingly bad. And I woke up Friday morning, saw the Wall Street Journal alert on my phone, and was like, yep.

Kimberly Adams: Oops! Happens to the best of us. happens to the best of us.

Matt Levin: Thank you Kimberly.

Kimberly Adams: Wasn’t you making the mistakes. It was the all the people that you interviewed.

Matt Levin: That’s right. That’s right.

Kimberly Adams: Speaking of shifting the blame, let’s go ahead and play the game. You like that transition?

Matt Levin: I did, that was an amazing segue.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, this is Half Full/Half Empty, where we give you our thoughts and feelings on various topics, although I was told after last week’s show that apparently I play the game wrong, according to Twitter, but…

Matt Levin: Oh, no.

Kimberly Adams: Oh, well. Drew Jostad  is our host today, Drew, let’s go.

Drew Jostad:  Alright, so TurboTax is teaming up with Coinbase to offer you your tax refund in crypto, if you should choose, are you half full or half empty?

Kimberly Adams: Half empty.

Matt Levin: Go for it.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, I feel like if you want to invest the time and the energy and the effort and the risk to get your tax refund in the speculative currency, go for it. But I think the vast majority of people that’s not a great

Matt Levin: Yeah, so I guess I am also half empty to stick to the rules of the game I don’t want to get … on Twitter.

Kimberly Adams: There are no rules.

Matt Levin: I think the full context for this is it seems like everybody got into crypto in 2020 and 2021. And now those who got into crypto don’t really know what to do with their tax bill right. There are certain tax implications for being in cryptocurrency especially if it’s, you know, significantly significantly gone up since you originally invested. I think it’s also part of a larger trend where exchanges like Coinbase and FTX and some of these other very well capitalized companies are pairing with more kind of established entities to do business, which I think is super, super interesting. It’s yet another example that you know, crypto is it is increasingly in meshing itself into all types of aspects of our economic lives.

Kimberly Adams: Do you think this is a way for the IRS to also get a sense of who like is like, if they issue your refund and crypto, they know that you’ve got a crypto wallet and account if they audit you later.

Matt Levin: You know, sure the IRS definitely is more interested in crypto assets now than than they used to be too much to the ire of you know, a big chunk of the crypto community. I don’t know if this particular story you know is spawn from that impulse from the IRS but  you’re not wrong. You’re not wrong.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, what’s next?

Drew Jostad: I don’t know if the IRS would know it sounds like maybe that you –TurboTax sends it to coin base and that’s where it gets converted.  I don’t know on that –  I don’t know if the yeah.

Kimberly Adams: All right. Thank you for tamping down my conspiracy theory.

Drew Jostad: All right, next topic is due to a lack of manufacturing capacity and labor Hershey’s says we might be going into Valentine’s Day with a candy shortage. Are you half full or half empty?

Kimberly Adams: I mean, my waistline is probably half full. But half empty.

Matt Levin: I guess it depends on how you feel about candy as a Valentine’s Day gift. Where are you with that?

Kimberly Adams: Um, that’s a very loaded question.

Matt Levin: Oh, no. I didn’t mean it to be.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, how am I on candy is a Valentine’s Day gift. I purchase a significant amount of Valentine’s Day candy. I will eat a significant amount of Valentine’s Day candy and I do not think well, you know, this is wrapped up in so many things. Galentine’s Day you needed a lot of candy for those parties, is what I’m saying. And so I don’t I guess when it says a shortage? Like how much candy do we actually all need?

Matt Levin: Yeah, I’m  half full on this because I think the the supply chains screwed up my Valentine’s Day gift line of argument will be I can’t wait to watch those Tik Tok videos. So that’s not just the candy but you know, whatever else the floor has had supply chain issues. Sorry, I couldn’t get you flowers, gifts XY and Z supply chain issues wreck. So half  full for me on on this one.

Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on the Belgian right to disconnect law?

Kimberly Adams: All the way full?

Matt Levin: Yeah, me too.

Kimberly Adams: All the way full. This is the the rule that basically gives people the right to disconnect from their jobs and not be available on their phones or on technology and just actually check out. And I think that if we’ve learned anything about our mental health in the last couple of years is that we all need to be able to disconnect for real for real sometimes. So I’m all the way full on that one.

Matt Levin: If – I should double check this. I’m pretty sure the Belgian rule only applies to civil servants. But I will double check that shortly.

Drew Jostad: I think that’s correct.

Matt Levin: Okay, thank you Drew. It does feel like – I’d never question Drew. I think it feels like the Europeans have been a little ahead of the US on stuff like this, as well as kind of like on the privacy component. But especially when it comes to mitigating the technological kind of encroachment of your job. Because it’s not just Belgium, I think a couple other countries in Europe have tried other stuff like this. And again, yes, to preserve the sanity of the workforce, it seems like a a good idea. All right, we got

Drew Jostad: After it dropped more than 25% yesterday, are you half full or half empty on the Meta stock price?

Kimberly Adams: Half empty, there’s a whole lot of people who really actively strongly dislike that company. And those numbers that came out of that Meta earnings report were not great. They are lost a ton of money when Apple clamped down on, you know, that sort of, you know, the advertising and tracking and stuff. And

Matt Levin: That’s right.

Kimberly Adams: The VR situation is not going the way that they want it to. And I’m not sure how either one of those gets better anytime soon.

Matt Levin: Yeah, I’m reluctant to take a position on the stock price specifically, but I’ll say I’ll say overall Facebook has – and I’ll just say Facebook, because that’s what comes out of my mouth. Apologies to the rebranding experts. They have some significant headwinds against them. What was really interesting is Facebook’s earnings were disappointing. But that wasn’t true of a lot of their competitors. And kind of tech broadly, even though the sector took a hit on the market. But Google –

Kimberly Adams: Snap did.

Matt Levin: Yep, Snapchat did well, Google did well. And part of the reason Google did well was because the advertising dollars that were going to Facebook and took a hit from Apple’s new privacy constraints, they’re going well, we can’t target our advertising budget as specifically on social. Let’s go back to search. Which is super, super interesting. Also super interesting kind of like the personal enmity, it seems exist between Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. And this this does seem to be like kind of like a point Cook, at least at this particular junction. So yeah, I don’t think I went half full or half empty there. But it’s, it’s my answer.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Not sure if that takes, it at a half full or half and half empty. It just is.

Drew Jostad: I’ll allow it.

Kimberly Adams: Thanks!

Matt Levin: Thank you, Drew.

Kimberly Adams: Thank you. Maybe now the internet won’t yell at me. Oh no, I’m sure people will find a reason. That is it for us today Make Me Smart will be back on Monday with Kai and Marielle if anything made you smile or makes you smile over the weekend, or if you have questions or comments, you can email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or leave us a voice message we are at 508-827-6278 That’s 508-UB-SMART.

Matt Levin: I do like this music. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Green. Today’s episode was engineered by the great Drew Jostad. The senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.

Kimberly Adams: The team behind our game Half Full/Half Empty is Mel Rosenberg and Emily McCune. The theme for other music for  Half Full/Half Empty was written by Drew Jostad and the director of On Demand is Donna Tam.

Matt Levin: How’s your mulled wine?

Kimberly Adams: Stronger than I thought apparently I was stumbling a little.

Matt Levin: You were fine. You were fine. I had to pace myself with this gin. So.

Kimberly Adams:  Gin is the devil.

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