On Sept. 12, 2001, there were no commercial flights in the United States. It was uncertain when airlines would be permitted to start flying again—or how many customers would be on them. Airlines faced not only the tragedy of 9/11 but the fact that economy was entering a recession. So almost immediately, all the U.S. airlines, save one, did what so many U.S. corporations are particularly skilled at doing: they began announcing tens of thousands of layoffs. Today the one airline that didn't cut staff, Southwest, still has never had an involuntary layoff in its almost 40-year history. It's now the largest domestic U.S. airline and has a market capitalization bigger than all its domestic competitors combined. As its former head of human resources once told me: "If people are your most important assets, why would you get rid of them?"
It's an attitude that's all too rare in executive suites these days. As the U.S. economy emerges from recession, Americans continue to suffer through the worst labor market in a generation. The unemployment rate dipped in January, from 10 percent to 9.7 percent, but the economy continued to lose jobs. There are currently 14.8 million unemployed, and when you count "discouraged workers" (who've given up on job seeking) and part-time workers who'd prefer a full-time gig, that's another 9.4 million Americans who are "underemployed." While the pink slips are slowing as the economy rebounds, the lack of jobs remains the most visible—and politically troublesome—reminder that despite what the economic indicators may tell us, for much of the population, the Great Recession hasn't really gone away.
Very interesting article. Your thoughts.