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I know what you’re thinking: Why is Knakal addressing unemployment yet again? Simply, it is because last week’s announcement that the official rate has climbed to more than double digits further illustrates that the administration is incorrectly focused on things other than job growth.As I have always stated, our commercial real estate markets need employment more than anything else to enhance our fundamentals and turn our outlook around. As unemployment increases, our fundamentals degrade and as our fundamentals degrade, our values drop. Until the trend in unemployment reverses, it will be nearly impossible to see tangible health return to any segment of commercial real estate. Our rising unemployment rate begs the question: How did job creation get put on the back burner?In October 2008 in Toledo, Ohio, a major economic speech was delivered by then candidate Barack Obama. Let’s take a close look at what he said:”Right now, we face an immediate economic emergency, and that requires urgent action. We can’t wait to help workers and families….who don’t know if their jobs……will be there tomorrow. … We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class, and we need to do it not five years from now, not next year, we need to do it right now. It’s a plan that begins with one word thats on everybody’s mind, and its easy to spell: J-O-B-S.”That sounds pretty good and is pretty powerful. That sounds like focus. Mr. Obama gave the impression that job creation would be his top priority and that his action would be swift.Gandhi once said that, “Action expresses priorities”. If this is true, job creation has, clearly, not been one of the president’s priorities. Recently, the administration has begun talking about job creation but this provides little comfort as this recession began two years ago.The results of the off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey have demonstrated that Americans are increasingly believing that the administration should not be prioritizing health-care, climate change, and financial regulation while hundreds of thousands of people continue to lose jobs each month. Nearly 90% of those voting in these gubernatorial races said they were worried about the direction of the economy and the majority of those who held that view voted for the Republican candidate. Are we looking at another 1994 (a year in which we saw a dynamic shift in political power) in 2010? If jobs do not become the priority, we just may be.Could it be any more obvious that the objective on Pennsylvania Avenue is to push an entire agenda through before power is potentially lost in the midterm elections? This could be a tragic policy flaw which could lead to relinquished majorities in the fall of 2010.This lack of focus on jobs has resulted in an official unemployment rate of 10.2% (the highest since 1983) and an underemployment rate of 17.5%. The latter takes into consideration those who are out of work and have stopped looking for work and those who are employed part-time who are seeking full-time employment.Clearly, job creation has dropped from a top priority to just one of many, and President Obama has been remanded to pandering for patience and offering excuses. On one hand he argues that there is some good news in the awful numbers as things are indeed getting worse but at a slower pace. On the other, he constantly reminds us that he inherited this mess. How long can he continue to do this? Fair or not, finger-pointing is not effective policy.The administration now claims that the stimulus has “created or saved” one million jobs. Does anyone really believe that?  (Maybe if Congress spends another $787 billion, it can get the jobless rate up to 12%). The data upon which this claim is based is of extraordinarily low quality and are not reliable indicators of job creation or the even vaguer notion of job retention. There are two major problems with the data. The first is a strong reporting bias. Those providing data are those who have received stimulus funds. If they are creating or saving jobs, they are likely to get more free money, hence, a strong incentive to inflate reality.The second is that the government is using what is referred to as “gains-only” reporting.  When the government reports this figure, it wants us to believe that the new hires came from the pool of the unemployed and that they are net additions to the stock of employed workers. The data do not speak to the number of workers who left their current jobs to fill government sponsored jobs.  Because these data do not tell us where the workers come from and what happens to the positions they left, the numbers cannot answer the ultimate question: How many net jobs were created? The government is reporting the gross positive figures, not the relevant net figures.On a monthly basis, the Department of Labor reports activity from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (Jolts). The Jolts data show that, in August of 2009, about 4 million workers were hired. Unlike the administration’s new jobs-created-or-saved data, the Jolts data also lets us know that about 4.3 million workers lost their jobs. How difficult is it to figure out what the relevant numbers are?It is difficult to imagine a more complete repudiation of Keynesian stimulus than the recent evidence in our job market. Only 11% of the stimulus money is actually stimulative (spent on infrastructure) with significant percentages being spent on pork projects and non-stimulative transfer payments such as Medicaid and jobless benefits. The net effect is that net job creation has been negative. The much ballyhooed Keynesian multiplier that every dollar of government spending yields 1.5 times that in economic growth has, once again, been exposed as false. Few people remember that Keynes developed his theory when government spending only represented about 2% of GDP, a far cry from where it is today.The policy lesson here is for both political parties (if you are  a frequent reader of StreetWise, you know that I try to critique both parties equally and, I believe, fairly). In 2008, President Bush caved-in and initiated the first “stimulus”, a $160 billion program that was ill-conceived and not very stimulative. Mr. Bush lost policy bearings during his last year and forgot that in order for a tax cut to be stimulating it must be immediate, permanent and at the margin of the next dollar. Instead, for the past two years, the U.S. and most of the rest of the world have been pouring trillions into a Keynesian black hole. Let’s not forget that this spending must be paid for at some point. Tax increases are inevitable and this expectation continues to stifle consumer spending.If the administration is serious about wanting to create jobs (a by-product of which would be to help our commercial real estate markets) the best policy action would be to ask themselves and Congress, Why?…..Why create so much investment uncertainty and additional barriers to businesses hiring new employees?Why raise the costs of doing business by making it easier to unionize workers via “card check”?Why raise energy costs for businesses with a cap-and-trade (“cap-and-tax”) bill?Why add to an already inflated budget deficit and future tax burden with a 12% increase (proposed in the draft budget) in domestic spending in 2010?Why force through Congress, on a partisan vote, a health-care bill that imposes a 5.4% income tax “surcharge” on anyone making more than $500,000? The Joint Tax Committee reports that about one-third of this $460.5 billion tax increase will be paid by small business job creators who file their taxes under the individual income tax code.Perhaps someone should read Mr. Obama a transcript of his Toledo speech. Then maybe he will be reminded that he cannot wait for next year, he needs to act now and, very simply, it’s all about J-O-B-S.Mr. Knakal is the Chairman and Founding Partner of Massey Knakal Realty Services in New York City and has brokered the sale of over 1,000 properties in his career.

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