Job market recovery or dead cat bounce?

 [This article was first published on 4 March 2009, on] 

This week an email was followed by a text, which was then succeeded by a phone call (which I scanned caller ID and diverted to voicemail), and then promptly followed by yet another text and another email. No – not a personal stalker, the preserve of the rich and famous, but the return of the head hunter.

One suspects they have been in hibernation and are now making their daffodil-esque springtime resurgence. Who can blame them? They currently rival estate agents in the stakes of who has the fewest wares to peddle, in this crunchy era marked by a scarcity of jobs and a dearth of property transactions. Those who have had the good fortune to remain gainfully employed are probably wondering about the timeframe that they themselves will be enlisting the aid of one of their own.

An interesting piece of bait being dangled carrot-fashion is the USP of a “guaranteed percentage cash payout”. To be fair, I’ve come across many a worse USP for a stock broking role. Furthermore, I can name many an ex-colleague who would, in the past, have happily traded in their grandmother for a contract clause of this nature. But belt-tightening times call for belt-tightening measures, which exacerbates the truism that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

If past history is any indication for future performance, as we are so often assured it is not when making any investment, then the hiring antics of the bulge bracket big boys should act as a presage of times ahead. Mass hiring has typically denoted a market top and mass firing a market trough. Could the mass job massacres have reached their peak, thereby, dare I suggest it, serving as a symbol of a turning of tides? I’m not betting my lunch money on it.

Having said that, this week the grape vine also brought tidings of not only a credit crunch-defying rise in year on year bonus payout for one front office acquaintance but an equally recession-resistant hike in basic pay to boot. It would seem the tide hasn’t quite decided which way it’s turning.

Regardless, having been thrown from the wheel of the rat race in such a disposable manner, I find it difficult to muster the enthusiasm to clamber back on board in any great hurry.


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