Hodgepodge

January 17, 2008

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Today's post is a mishmash of interesting items that have crossed my desk in the last few days.

The words hodgepodge and mishmash are alterations of Middle English words, hochepot and misse-masche, respectively. The English language has evolved over the years, and so has the English economy.

According to an article on the Guardian Unlimited, by Heather Stewart, although Brits are suffering from a credit crunch, just as those of us in the U.S. are, "at least [they"ve] got one up on the Yanks."Stewart said that for the first time since Queen Victoria was on the throne and Britain still had an Empire, the average living standards in the U.K. now are higher than those in the U.S.


The article went on to say, "New calculations by consultancy Oxford Economics show that GDP will reach £23,500 per person in the UK in 2008, beating £23,250 in the US, and also topping the levels in both Germany and France by 8 percent.

"The strength of sterling against the sickly dollar has helped boost the figures; but Oxford Economics' Adrian Cooper says 15 years of sustained economic growth have finally succeeded in turning the U.K. around.

"'The U.K. has been catching up steadily with living standards in the U.S. since 2001, so it is a well-established trend, rather than the result of currency fluctuations,' he said."



The caveat? The calculations are at market exchange rates, not what economists call purchasing power parity; consumers in the U.K. cannot necessarily afford the same standard of living as their cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.

"'The American consumer still has far stronger purchasing power because of the lower cost of goods and services,' [Cooper said]."

Just what is the status of the U.S. consumer's purchasing power? The msnbc.com article, 2007 inflation up by largest amount in 17 years, described a mixed-bag of price fluctuations.



Energy costs rose by 17.4 percent in 2006, and food costs rose by 4.9 percent. Both were the largest increases since 1990. Gasoline prices were up by 29.6 percent, the largest increase since that skyrocketed by 30.1 percent in 1999.

The 2006 2.4 percent rise in prices outside of food and energy was the smallest since 2005's 2.2 percent rise.

While clothing costs and new car prices actually fell for the year, both declining by 0.3 percent, airline fares were up 10.6 percent and medical care rose by 5.2 percent.

This article about inflation ended by noting: "Workers' wages failed to keep up with the higher inflation. Average weekly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, dropped by 0.9 percent in 2007, the biggest setback since a 1.5 percent fall in 2005."

Maybe the wage-inflation disparity is partially to blame for another statistic I read today—the ever-decreasing average job tenure. According to a Stanton Chase/Birkman survey about the talent shortage crisis—all together now: By 2010 there will be 11.5 million more jobs than workers as boomers retire—today's average job tenure is four years. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that baby boomers have been the most stable and loyal workforce in history, with average employee tenure 15 years in 1980 and 10 years in 2000. In 2000, the average tenure for Generation X (born 1965 – 1977) was five years.

Are workers now resorting to job hopping in an effort to keep up with inflation? Just a thought and maybe a stretch. Too many statistics and too little time to absorb and make sense of them all. And when you think about it, statistics change just like that. Want to see a good example of how quickly they change? Visit the World Clock site. Scroll the page and click on the Life Expectancy Calculator below the spinning globe to find out how much time you potentially have left to increase your database of immediately obsolete statistics.



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Vicki Bell

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