State of the Union: The story in the data

2 weeks ago by Jeremy Bloom in Features

In his State of the Union address last night, President Trump said "The state of the union is strong because our people are strong". But what about the data - does the data back that up? We can look to some standard indicators - consumer confidence is up, the stock market is up (aside from a couple of glitchy days already this week). But how about some of the alternative data, the kind we specialize in at Thinknum?

Government contracts 

Earlier this month, we reported that government contracting was way, way down - likely the result of uncertainty over the budget process.

Even defense contracts are down. Congress has been talking about a big boost in defense spending, but when they're operating on continuous continuing resolutions and the President says things like "We could maybe use a shutdown", it doesn't inspire the kind of confidence necessary for signing multi-billion-dollar contracts.

Some defense contractors, like Raytheon ARE hiring in preparation, as we reported yesterday (See: Job growth is real, at least in the military contracting industry) , but certainly not to the extent that would be happening if the budget was in place.

The state of the mall

As we've reported in a couple of stories, the state of retail is deeply mixed. The holiday shopping season was strong, but marred by thousands of store closings - everything from anchor department stores like Sears, Maceys, K-Mart and JC Penny, big box stores like Sam's Club and Toys R Us, and boutique shops like Charming Charlie and Gap.

Map of mall store closings

And yet, vacancy rates seem stable. In part, that's because Malls are getting more creative, replacing lost anchor stores with bowling alleys, restaurants, grocery stores and gyms.

The state of work

Unemployment is way, way down, which is great. But do people actually like the jobs they have? Via Glassdoor ratings, we're able to take a look at how people feel about their jobs, the company they work for, and the CEO who bosses them around (and hopefully keeps the revenue coming in so that the company doesn't go belly up, as so many have). 

Buzzfeed. Snap. Both not doing so great. 

LearnDirect has the worst rating of any company on Glassdoor - but they're a British firm, so that's fine.

Tesla is doing great in some respects, but questions remain why they dumped 700 employees at the end of the year - and how they expect to meet their production numbers on the new Tesla 3, even with a surge of hiring in recent days.

And both Lululemon and Papa John's are arguably better places to work now that their abrasive founders have been quietly shown the door.

And then there's Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas and Macau... but that leads us into the next section.

The battle of the sexes

One bright spot - the number of abusive individuals being confronted and toppled from high positions is up, exponentially. Triggered by a hard-hitting investigation by Ronan Farrow, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was dumped by his own company; Kevin Spacey was dropped from his hit Netflix series House of Cards; several Congressmen have either resigned outright or declined to stand for reelection, and Senator Al Franken returned to private life as well. 

Just this week, we reported how Steve Wynn, the King of Sin City and also the Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee, had been exposed as an abusive jerk by the Wall Street Journal, and noted how his Glassdoor ratings kind of pointed in that direction. 

And yet we are coming together

In one of the most encouraging stories we ran this year, we discovered that, far from price-gouging and profiteering in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, self-storage companies like Public Storage actually slashed their prices and built more units

And usage of dating apps is way up... but usage of dating apps ALWAYS seems to go up at the turn of the year.

(Image: Screencap from CNN, modified with filters.)

Jeremy Bloom

When Jeremy Bloom isn't writing about energy, the environment, or the amazing strangeness of modern life, you can find him drinking really good single malt whisky or climbing things (not necessarily in that order)

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