Monday, October 20, 2008

Jobs that Could Be in Trouble

The economy appears to be in trouble and everyone is wondering what industries will suffer the most from the up coming recession. When dollars get tight, people focus on cutting costs and buying necessities. So, anything that can be described as "waste" are most vulnerable. Currently, unemployment is now above 6 percent and some fear it could reach double digits.

The following are a few examples of industries that could be hardest hit:

  • Supermarkets and fast food establishments could be the first to see a negative impact. The latter is for obvious reasons, because people will simply refrain from eating out as often. Supermarkets, on the other hand, will find themselves in a battle over pricing that we hadn't seen in years. The large volume leaders -- Walmart, Costco, and Sam's -- will be the likely winners of that battle. AOL Money & Finance points out that "Aside from Supervalu, which has already said it is struggling, Kroger and Safeway could be affected as well. These three largest chains have more than 750,000 workers. If same store sales drop sharply and a large number of outlets are closed watch for as many as 50,000 people being out of work.This does not take into account the scores of smaller chains and tens of thousands of individual food retailers around the country." On the fast food front, 10,000 jobs have already departed from Starbucks. That will only be the beginning.

  • An industry that has been perceived as some what recession proof -- the Internet and E Commerce -- could be falling on hard times. The way these industries will be hit is if the damage is widespread throughout the business market place and it has a ripple effect on these areas. To some companies, E commerce and web businesses are an option, not a necessity. If that is the case, they too could suffer.

  • E companies could find themselves in pain. My company's own web platform of over 90 websites has seen a slight decline in pay per click advertising revenue (fortunately we have seen a rise of other advertisiers). People are getting their ads for less because there are fewer competing to place them. What type of business are vulnerable? Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Amazon, just to name a few. Combined, these four employ over 75,000 employees. Yahoo seems the most vulnerable and could easily layoff 20 percent of its 15,000 employees.

  • Software firms are also very vulnerable and I am sure that Bill Gates and his friends at Microsoft are among the most concerned. The largest of these companies employ over 600,000 combined. If these firms start laying off, it will have a trickle effect through out the entire economy since so many businesses are dependent on them.

  • The hot industry in my neighborhood is energy and even it is vulnerable to cut backs. The price per barrel has dropped from a high of nearly $150 to around $70. Those prices are still high, historically, but the days of the fatted calf may be fading. Some are projecting a cut of as many as 5 percent of the labor force in these industries.

  • Not surprisingly, media companies are taking a significant hit at this time. Everyone seems to be trying to lower expectations, including Viacom and CBS. The six largest media companies -- including Time Warner, Disney, and GE -- employ over 400,000 employees. If they start laying off the ripple effect could be huge.

What over shadows these dire concerns is the fact that thing Wall Street loves to see it that, when a business hits a hard time, the decision makers are tough and willing to make unpopular decisions. This is often best demonstrated in layoffs. In fact, the Stock Market has a history of rewarding companies with higher returns as they let employees go.

Kevin Price articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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