Recent Labor Statistics and the Impact of Public Relations

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Lost or overshadowed amidst recent disturbing news related to horrible accounts of terrorism, regular North Korean missile launches, climate change predictions and of course — some news-making presidential tweets– was some pretty good news.

Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On June 2, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released favorable numbers regarding employment: Some 138,000 jobs were created in May, and the unemployment rate remained at 4.3%. To most Americans, especially those of us who are still in the workforce (like me), this is encouraging news, a reflection of a robust and somewhat stable economy.

(Although, I trust there are doubters and detractors to last month’s positive employment statistics, those who maintain the stats are inaccurate and fail to account people who just gave up looking for a job. My perspective: If you have another way to analyze how many people are working or not working, please share.)

Now, let’s turn the clock way back to September of 2009, and the numbers project a much more sobering perspective on the national job front. That month, in the days of the Great Recession, U.S. businesses shed 263,000 jobs and the unemployment rate was 9.8%.  I certainly can relate because I lost a great public relations position on September 4, 2009, a somewhat life-changing personal event that compelled me to start the PRDude blog.

Hey, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if I got to keep the management position I held for 12 years! Without question, ultimately a positive outcome for me and the wonderful people who read my words.

Now, back to the focus of this post.

Through a little more research, I learned more about the impact of public relations professionals on the U.S. employment market.

Clearly, public relations professionals are a factor in the job market and economy.  But from another perspective, public relations will probably never rank up with industries like healthcare, retail, construction and accounting — industries that the government maintains are forecast to have the highest percentage of job growth.

And on a somewhat related note, those entering the profession may want to read a recent report claiming public relations ranks eight in terms of the most stressful jobs in the nation today — right above taxi drivers, but below corporate executives.

Not sure if I totally agree with the job stress stat; but I’m not about to worry and will remain steadfastly bullish on the value and need for sound, ethical public relations for many years to come.




One Job Over 40-Plus Years: A Conversation With My Brother Dan

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

There are a lot of “new normal” developments these days.  Gasoline will always cost more than $3.  Some segments of society, like teenagers, now only walk while texting.  And, most people will hold the same job for a couple of years and then move on.

An article published in Forbes magazine last year reported that a very high percentage of Millennials plan on keeping the same job for less than three years.  This trend can prove troublesome for companies because high turnover costs in terms of retraining, recruitment and lost or diminished productivity.

But, it’s not surprising that people born in the late 1970s/early 1980s — the Millennials or Generation X demographic — don’t stay in one place too long. After all, we’ve become a highly mobile society, and we get information on the run on mobile devices. Besides, what self-respecting, tattooed Millennial would want to toil years for some conglomerate when he or she could get funded through Kickstarter and launch a tech start-up?

My brother, Dan Bury, relaxing on his deck and enjoying retirement after more than 40 years with "the phone company."

My brother, Dan Bury, relaxing on his deck and enjoying retirement after more than 40 years with “the phone company.”

Employment didn’t always last about as long as the latest version of the iPhone.  My brother, Dan Bury, is testimony.  For more than 40 years, Dan had one job: With the “phone company.”

Yes, this was your father’s — at least, mine –“phone company,” once part of a monopoly called the nationwide Bell System that was broken up in 1984 following an anti-trust lawsuit by the federal government.  Now retired, I asked Dan to share some thoughts on his career.  Here’s an edited version.

The Apprentice: A guy from the neighborhood worked at Illinois Bell doing light delivery. He said they were hiring, so I went downtown and took a test.  I was over-qualified for that job, but did qualify for being a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) installer.   I worked for about a month, but then I had to report for a draft induction.  I went downtown for a physical at the Selective Service office and was told I had high blood pressure and a hernia, so I was rejected.  I called my boss and went back to work. This was in 1970.

I served a four-year apprenticeship, working with a journeyman, in the Humboldt District in Chicago. Then I got my union card and became a journeyman.  We worked in factories, offices and retail outlets installing large switching equipment. We could be on the job from two weeks to eight months.  The jobs required a lot of wiring.

From Bell, to AT&T, to Lucent, to Avaya: After the 1984 divestiture, I bell imageswent to work for AT&T.  The equipment really improved and the jobs were a lot shorter in duration.  In 1996, AT&T was spun off to Lucent Technologies.  It was the same job, but for a different company.  My benefits and 401k came with me.  Then, I moved on to Avaya.

Throughout my career, I was still a member of Local 134 of the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).  When I started at Bell in 1970, there were 2,600 guys in our local; when I retired in 2011, there were only 15 guys left.

Back when I started, there were no other phone companies.  You couldn’t get a job without a union card.  Anyone who tried to get on a job without a union card didn’t have to be told to stay off the job; they just left.

Now, Dan has more time to do things like enjoying a summer day in his kayak.

Now, Dan has more time to do things like enjoying a summer day in his kayak.

From Hands on Training to Online.  I took any kind of training the company offered.  I’d get to leave Chicago to attend classes in Dallas, Denver, New York and New Jersey.  The training certainly was better in my early days.

Toward the end, the training was not that good, and it was mostly online.  It’s hard for someone my age to learn online when I was used to learning on equipment that you could touch.  Now, the younger guys are being trained on the new equipment, not the guys with 30 or 40 years of experience.

If I had to look for a job in my field now, I’d have to be retrained because everything’s so much more advanced. The first equipment I worked on had switches that you’d plug into a port; now, you’d dial in and do the work remotely.

Thoughts for Those Seeking a Career. If you find a job that you like, dedicate yourself to it.  I never had the idea to move from job to job.  I really enjoyed my early years with the phone company. I was not at the same desk day after day; there always was a change of schedule and meeting new people.

The workplace today  is much more cutthroat than it was before.  I went above and beyond for some customers, and they still weren’t happy.

Those are Dan Bury’s, thoughts on his career as a skilled technician.  Drop us a line (I mean, “reply to this post”), with your thoughts.  Do you plan to stay in one position for many years?