Body Piercings and Tattoos, Part 2

By Gary Wartik
April 10, 2015

In our last newsletter, Karen L. Gabler, Esq. of the law firm of LightGabler, LLC of Camarillo, employment law specialists, offered us insights into how to deal with job applicants, adorned with tattoos, nose rings, extra bushy beards and similar body “enhancements,” should be treated in terms of meeting a company’s dress code.

Ms. Gabler told us that in developing a company-wide grooming/appearance policy prohibiting tattoos and piercings, employers should consider the business reasons behind any such prohibitions, as well as the specific job duties of the individual employees.   For example, an employer might wish to prohibit visible tattoos for employees who interact with customers.  In that case, a janitor who works after hours and never interacts with customers might be permitted to have visible tattoos, whereas a customer service representative might be restricted from having visible tattoos.

As the article noted, employers are entitled to hold prospective new employees to the terms of an enforceable dress code, especially for those meeting with customers, clients or patients.  Well, that is good direction for those meeting with prospective employees in an interview setting.  Some of our readers, however raised the question of how to deal with the employee who, at the time of employment reflects a “clean appearance,” then moves into the world of tattoos, nose rings, etc.

In discussing this with Ms. Gabler, she confirmed that with an enforceable dress code in place, the existing employee who changes his/her appearance may be held to the same standards as applied to them when hired.  For those who, subsequent to being hired, violate the dress code, and continue to interact with the company’s clientele, such an employee may be released for violating the dress code, or given the choice of complying with company policy.  As a reminder, however, there are two key tests, they being: 1) Employee interacts with clientele, and 2) The physical adornments are not religious based.

For further questions, please contact us at Vision Economics at, or by calling 805-987-7322.

The US Recovery – Some Strengths & Weaknesses

By Bill Watkins, Ph.D
Edited by Gary Wartik
March 10, 2014

Every year since the Lehman Brothers’ collapse, we’ve had periods where GDP growth picks up a bit.  Every time this happens, we hear analysts and policy people declare that the recovery is finally gaining steam.  Every time disappointment follows.

One problem is that some analysts mistake normal volatility for a change in trend.  We have advice for these analysts, advice that will help them avoid embarrassing themselves anymore than they already have:  Look for three consecutive quarters of 3.5 percent real GDP growth before declaring a robust recovery.  Before that critical third quarter, express cautious optimism.  Even then, you could be premature.

Analysts often neglect the analysis of fundamentals, and that’s a problem.  Instead of looking at the forces driving economic activity, they often look at charts, and many times these charts represent such a high level of aggregation that they contain little useful information.

This was always going to be a long slow recovery.  A huge reallocation of real estate assets had to take place (see the real estate essay) and a huge amount of wealth was lost.  You don’t recover from those types of shocks quickly.

Most of the real estate reallocation has occurred.  Total wealth has more than recovered, but the distributional impacts are still slowing growth.  Real estate wealth has not fully recovered, and those whose assets are concentrated in real estate still have troubled balance sheets.  These include much of the middle class, and especially small business owners.

Perhaps more importantly from jobs perspective, small business owners have a much higher concentration of wealth in real estate than the typical American.  Over 90 percent of small business owners are home owners, and more than 50 percent own more than one piece of real estate.  Their still-over-leveraged balance sheet is slowing job growth.

That’s not all of our problems though.  Government has been part of the problem.  Governments have done everything they can to slow the transfer of real estate, deepening the recession and prolonging recovery.

Governments compounded the problem of job creation by regulation that provides perverse incentives for job creation or insurmountable barriers to expansion.  The Affordable Healthcare Act is an example of the former, while environmental regulation is probably the best example (of a long list) of the latter.

We also face serious challenges in our financial sector.  It was ravished by the recession.  For example, there have been 71,000 bank failures in the past six years.

Our financial sector is less competitive than it was prior to the recession, and the perverse incentive of Too-Big-To-Fail are still with us.  We will have another financial crisis, and because of increased concentration of bank assets in the largest ten or so banks, it could be much more costly than the most recent crisis.

We also believe that the concentration of banking assets is impairing small business’s ability to access capital necessary for job creation.  This is part of a long-term trend.  The United States now has about half the number of banks that is had at the beginning of the 1990s.  Because of population growth, the ratio of banks to population has seen a far steeper decline.  We note with approval the small increase in 2013:

On top of the problems created by government and the challenges in the financial sector, demographics are slowing our growth.  The Federal Reserve estimates that about a third of the decline in our workforce is a result of retiring Baby Boomers.

Finally, technology may be causing unemployment.

That’s a strange thing for an economist to say.  People have worried about technology generating unemployment since the beginning of the industrial revolution, but the industrial expansion since the industrial revolution has been accompanied by explosive job and population growth.

That said, there have been disruptions as people adapted to a rapidly changing environment.  A displaced worker’s skill set may not match job demand.  The more rapidly the technology is changing, the more people who will find themselves in these circumstances.

This idea is getting some serious consideration, led by Arnold Kling.  He’s given it the name Patterns of Sustainable Specialization and Trade (PSST).  Kling argues persuasively that the depression was a time of very rapid technological change, and that change contributed to persistent high unemployment.  George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London provides a moving vignette of the challenges the displaced faced and the human costs of the displacement.

If PSST is a significant contributor to our current high unemployment, the policy prescriptions are very different than those of Keynesian models, Austrian models, or Classical models.  We provide policy recommendations in our US Forecast essay.

Given all these factors, we don’t expect to be declaring a robust economy this year.

For more information, visit Vision Economics.


Skills Shortages Impact Ability to Find Adequate Workforce; Here is One of the Solutions

Skills Shortages Impact Ability to Find Adequate Workforce; Here is One of the Solutions
By Gary Wartik
January 15, 2013

Across the nation, in fact across much of the world, unemployment remains stubbornly high, especially among young people without college degrees, and in many cases without high school diplomas.  At the same time industry leaders complain about a lack of qualified workers.  The complaints range from job applicants lacking basic language skills, computer skills or the ability to read and then follow directions to those who have no idea how to act on the job or what a full workday is all about.   The good news is that the federal government has long recognized the problem and, in the current calendar year, allocated some $454 million to California, through the Workforce Investment Act (“WIA”) to provide services for adults, laid-off workers, and youth to help turn untrained people into desirable employee candidates.

The federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which replaced the Job Training Partnership Act in 2012, offers a comprehensive range of workforce development activities that can benefit job seekers, laid off workers, youth, incumbent workers, new entrants to the workforce, veterans, persons with disabilities, and employers.

The purpose of these activities is to promote an increase in the employment, job retention, earnings, and occupational skills improvement by those who are trained. This, in turn, improves the quality of the workforce, reduces welfare dependency, and improves the productivity and competitiveness of the nation.

California is divided into 49 regions that serve to implement the requirements of the WIA.  Each region is represented by a Workforce Investment Board (“WIB”) appointed by the county board of supervisors of the area(s) served.  I served on the Workforce Investment Board-Ventura County from 2007 to 2011 and came to recognize, from the inside, the benefits of the federal program.

The program works most effectively when an employer locates worthy job applicants that show promise of benefiting from job training and then enrolling them in an On-the-Job Training program funding by the WIB.  OJT support is designed to offset the cost of training for employers who take the time to train WIA job seekers in skills necessary to perform work in their companies. The no-fee service assists companies in meeting their training and recruitment needs and reimburses up to one-half of the trainee’s gross wages for a negotiated period of time (determined by the skill level and required training). The OJT program is available through Ventura County’s Job & Career Centers, a partner of the America’s Job Center of California network, and throughout the California.  Employers seeking support for recruitment, retention, or layoffs are encouraged to contact a local Job and Career Center or Workforce Investment Board office for additional information.  This may be first step in closing the gap between the need for trained employees and actually meeting the need.