The New World of Work – An Economic History Lesson

In the 1920s our country was primarily agrarian. More people lived on farms or in rural areas than lived in cities. Everything was dependent on the weather and commodity exchanges. Then, the Great Depression hit in 1929. During this time a great draught hit the mid section of the country and farm families lost all they had. Many picked up most of what was left and moved to cities. Florida and California were settled by more families in this time. By the end of the Great Depression we had become a mostly urban nation. Most people had migrated to cities for jobs and conveniences. The great Depression changed where our country lived forever.

World War II actually helped bring the Great Depression to an end. It motivated American Society and industrialized the average citizen like never before. With most of the eligible labor (mostly men) off fighting in the war, women were asked to work in the factories to bring about a victory. I saw a documentary about women working in a weapons factory.

The woman being interviewed talked about walking 2 miles from her home every day to welding school. She talked about getting a job in a munitions plant and welding from sun up to sun down. She talked about the friends she made who were working with her. She said it was hot, steamy, difficult, tiresome and hard work. Then she said, “It was the most fun I had ever had in my life.”When the war ended, she didn’t want to go back and stay in the kitchen cleaning house all day. She had learned a skill and was paid handsomely for it. World War II began to change the role of women forever.

More recently the world market suffered a recession in 2000-2001. It was called the Dot-com Recession. It changed our investment habits forever. As it was coming to a close, the events of 9/11 took place in the United States. For several days, commercial airports were shut down, leaving thousands of people stranded in cities everywhere. Travel came to a standstill almost worldwide.

When travel resumed, there were new security measures in every American airport. Screening machines, taking off your shoes, emptying your pockets and only ticketed passengers allowed at the gates became buzzwords. Your family used to go out to the gate to greet you or say goodbye. But those events changed and we never will travel the same way we did before 2001 again.

I say all this to illustrate the fact that recessions never end. Each is a continuation of the one before only in a different form. The markets go up and they go down. You can almost chart them in 5-7 year cycles. If you are reading this now, you can believe the market will get better, but another recession will be on the way. Market leaders know this and are prepared in advance. They also know that recessions change things permanently. Knowing what is changing and how you react or adjust to it is what separates the leaders from the losers.

The recession of 2008-2009 has changed the way we buy on credit forever. It has changed the way we bank forever. Many banks have gone out of business and the banking business has been forced by the economy and government regulations to change almost everything they do to comply with stricter standards. The recession has changed the way we buy houses forever and obtain loans. No more “No money down” loans. It has also changed both the way we buy automobiles and the type of autos we buy. Pontiac is gone forever. Gas guzzling cars are becoming a thing of the past in favor of more fuel efficient transportation. Everything is on the table and the rules have been changed forever. It’s a new world of work now.


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