New Republican Senate Must Make the Economy Priority One

November’s midterm elections revealed that, more than five-years after the recession ended, Americans remain concerned about the economy. Companies can help by focusing on improving staff morale, loyalty and retention.

Corporate profits hit record highs and stocks have tripled, as the nation’s output of goods and services grew more than $11 trillion from its pre-recession peak. However, CEOs know that only a limited number of investors are enjoying these benefits. For most American workers, their income is suffering from insufficient hours and minimal wage growth.

“The economy was voters’ most pressing concern, with seven of 10 rating conditions poor.”

“The economy was voters’ most pressing concern as they cast their ballots in the midterm election, with seven of 10 rating conditions poor,” Bloomberg reported about early exit polls.

It’s easy to see why: The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report shows that the number of Americans who are multiple job holders has increased, with those holding more than one job up 11.2% on a year-over-year basis. In fact, Americans with more than one job now account for 5.3% of the total employed.

And the data points to something that may be even more worrisome. The respondents to the BLS’ question about whether “hours on their primary or secondary job vary” is up 21.6%. Is that variation up or down, voluntary or involuntary? We don’t know, but the instability alone creates challenges for workers seeking security and wanting to plan for the future.

So what will be the task of the new Republican-leaning Senate? To find a fresh approach to lifting stagnant wages and reversing a deep and abiding sense of national economic anxiety. To do this, they will need to understand what has brought about the dichotomy of benefits:

  • Is it a too-long-standing zero-interest-rate policy of the Federal Reserve that punishes savers and rewards risk-takers?
  • Is it a Treasury that has collaborated to provide unlimited access to cheap funding?
  • Is it a government that has increased a transfer of wealth providing for a temporary boost in consumption, but perhaps not understanding that even if the government is handing out free money that “consumption” does not create permanent jobs?

It may be all of the above, in which case, Republicans have a near insurmountable hurdle to face before the 2016 elections, and that may once again leave most Americans dispirited.

CEOs can make a difference. As year-end approaches, now is a good time to get together with your HR department head and the rest of your leadership team to talk about your company’s employee policies and practices, including compensation and benefits, to ensure that they are thoughtful and competitive. Address everyday employee concerns about the way they’re treated the same way you would address marketing and selling your product and service solutions—with a careful discussion and a strategic approach. Improving employee morale, loyalty and retention can add to your bottom line, and help eliminate the red election blues.


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