You’ve heard the cries from employers across the country: nobody wants to work anymore. With ‘help wanted’ signs plastering windows and the old classified sections surging with unfilled positions, some business owners and politicians would have you believe that America has lost its work ethic.
"The government pays people big bucks NOT to work,” says U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, Republican from Alabama, referring to the current administration’s $300 weekly unemployment supplement. “So they don’t!"
U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat from California, offers another take. “Part of the reason people aren't getting back in is that wages haven't adjusted." She and other Democrats are pushing for a doubling of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Both sides have a point – to some extent. Certainly, extended unemployment benefits are delaying a return to work for some, but most economists say the numbers are likely small. And come to find out, when employers boost pay, job openings magically get filled.
But beyond the politics, beyond the day-to-day dollars and cents, there is something else afoot. As the pandemic recedes, millions of workers are simply quitting.
As NPR reported, software developer Jonathan Caballero had been used to a 45-minute commute into work. When the pandemic forced him and other employees of the firm to hunker down last year, he had time to think. He began to envision a workday that ends with a swim instead of a long drive in traffic. When his employer called him back to the office, he quit - and began looking for jobs with remote work options. He was quickly hired.
As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time. It's leading to a dramatic increase in resignations — a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone, according to the Labor Department. –Link to NPR article.
Now, there’s no single reason so many people are fleeing former jobs. Some, especially folks in the restaurant and hospitality industry, are leaving for better pay and advancement opportunities. For others, child care has become an insurmountable problem, exacerbated by a year of school closures. And others simply fear returning to a tight workspace when a third of the population remains unvaccinated and the more transmissible Delta variant is adding a wild card to the equation.
But while reasons may vary, there is an overarching theme at work. A year in relative isolation watching grim statistics every night on the news, nesting with close family, re-thinking how we get paid, how we get groceries, how we get educated, how we get well if we get sick. It only makes sense that great numbers of people have gone through a shift in priorities. They’ve watched their children grow. They’ve gotten closer to their partners. They’ve planted gardens and painted the deck and fixed the light switch and found ways to survive. And all of a sudden, working day and night just to pay bills isn’t enough. They’ve discovered there’s a world of living out there that they hadn’t known before.
Nothing like a pandemic to give you time to think about what’s really important. And what some people have decided, many people, what millions of people have decided, is that life comes first. Then work. Not the other way around.
The tears of employers notwithstanding, perhaps this is a good thing.
Now, for those hoping for a little market commentary, here it is: exactly 65% of market analysts see blue skies ahead. For example: “The markets appear to have adapted to the reality of the Fed taking their foot off the gas sooner than expected…with a rise in interest rates to follow. Bottom line for me is to remain bullish and see how the 2nd quarter reports are received, beginning in mid-July.” -- Marc Chaikin, Founder Chaikin Analytics. Link to article.
On the other hand, exactly 65% of market analysts see gloom and doom. To wit: Barry B. Bannister, Chief Equity Strategist of investment bank Stifel, who believes the S&P 500 is heading for an 11% pullback while bitcoin could fall to $12,000 (as of this date, bitcoin is trading at $34,304). Link to article.
So there you go.
As noted before, long term, the strategies will get the trends right. Short term, there may be a miss or two as the market juggles conflicting signals. So keep allocations of strategies reasonable within your portfolio, and remember that protection[1 - see below] remains paramount.
Best always, David
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 What does protection look like? At the extreme, it’s cash. As I mentioned last month, it’s OK to hold some cash. Cash is, in fact, a position. It means you’re prepared to act when circumstances better align with your risk tolerance. Protection can also mean an overweight position in a model built for protection (i.e., Bond Bulls, The 12% Solution). It can mean putting multiple strategies to work in a portfolio, especially when those models tend toward an inverse relationship with each other, or focus on different asset classes or market sectors. Think Bond Bulls and American Muscle. Or Global Trader and The 12% Solution. Because each strategy uses a slightly different mechanism to identify market risks, and because each can employ different funds representing different market sectors (although there is obviously some overlap), there is beneficial diversification at work when using multiple strategies within a portfolio – helping to reduce volatility and max drawdown. Finally, protection can mean keeping an eye on the provisional picks during the month. These can provide a heads-up on potential trends -- and breakdowns of existing trends. Look for asset class shifts that hold up for a few days. Not every such move is a trading opportunity or justifies a rebalancing, but information is power.