Will You Be Laid Off?

A Web calculator says Paul O’Neill has greater job security than the typical American.

Chatterbox is likelier than the typical American worker to be laid off by the end of 2002. This information comes via the layoff calculator, which invites jittery workers to calculate their percentage chances of losing their jobs due to economic contraction. By entering his ZIP code, his industry, his occupation, his last performance review rating, and his company’s stock symbol, Chatterbox was able to learn that he has a 7.3 percent chance of being laid off before January, as compared to a median of 5 percent. Try it! It’s fun!

Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has only a 4.3 percent chance of being laid off, according to the layoff calculator—and that’s assuming that O’Neill ranked in the “bottom third” in his last performance review. (Treasury secretaries don’t really get performance reviews, but their press is an adequate substitute.) That means that O’Neill enjoys greater job security than the typical American worker and considerably more job security than Chatterbox. This same Paul O’Neill said Sunday July 28 on NBC’s Meet the Press that the U.S. economy was not recently in a recession, because there was only one quarter of negative growth. A recession is usually thought to require two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and after Sept. 11 the economy actually grew—as Chatterbox, incidentally, predicted it would on Sept. 12. But O’Neill’s retrospective sunniness is refuted by a new report from the Commerce Department that indicates the economy shrank for the first three consecutive quarters in 2001. The good news is that the Bush administration can now blame this recession on Bill Clinton, who was still president when it began. The bad news is that the much-touted economic “fundamentals” aren’t nearly as good as we thought as recently as two weeks ago and that another recession, hard on the heels of the last one, is likelier than economists previously thought. This next recession, if it does come, will be named for George W. Bush, thereby increasing the chance that he’ll be laid off in 2004.