Baum on Money: Of Jobs and Risk

Good morning, all. Hope you are keeping warm and are ready for your Wednesday reading menu.

Good morning, all. Hope you are keeping warm and are ready for your Wednesday reading menu.

Biggest risks this year are geopolitical.

I suppose this qualifies as good news: For the first time since 2007, the biggest risks facing the world aren't economic, according to the Eurasia Group. Included in its list of top risks for 2014 are Iran's nuclear program, instability in the Middle East, a decentralized and more dangerous al Qaeda, risk aversion in U.S. foreign policy and an unpredictable Vladimir Putin. Given the array of geopolitical threats, it's comforting to know analysts at the Eurasia Group foresee economic stability in 2014. Then again, in 2007 few saw what the next six years would bring.

No real alternative to extended jobless benefits.

It looks as though the Senate will muster the 60 votes needed to pass an extension of emergency unemployment benefits. The House is less certain. For those who wonder about the urgency, the Washington Post's Brad Plummer offers seven reasons why Congress should enact an extension, including the fact that it's much harder for the long-term unemployed to find work than those who have been out of work for a few weeks. There's little evidence to support the claim that the long-term unemployed find work when their benefits end. And if you're not convinced by that, consider this: The U.S. economy's productive potential is being hurt by long-term unemployment as workers' skills atrophy, forcing folks to drop out of the labor force. The Obama administration may talk a lot about enacting a jobs bill, but the sad truth is that president's policies are doing nothing to encourage job creation.

How to maximize income and reduce stress.

Looking for a new job? Want to reduce stress? You might try being a university professor (tenured, of course), a hairdresser or a drill press operator, according to Among the most stressful jobs are firefighter, police offer, military personnel, airline pilot and reporter. Stress isn't the only consideration. If you want to maximize income and reduce stress, try being an audiologist (def: someone who treats hearing problems), a profession that offers a high median salary (about $70,000) and low stress.

Go where the jobs are.

The Labor Department released data on metropolitan area employment for November yesterday. The jobless rate was lower last month than a year earlier in 293 of the 372 metro areas, higher in 71, and unchanged in 8. If your metro area has anything to do with hydraulic fracking, it probably has an unemployment rate in the region of 2 percent. At the other extreme is California, with several metro areas in the state sporting 12 percent unemployment rates.

The book that has Washington buzzing .

Robert Gates' new memoir is ruffling feathers in the nation's capital. The Washington Post's Bob Woodward has the story. Gates says President Obama never believed in the troop surge in Afghanistan and was only interested in getting out. Hillary Clinton admitted she opposed the Iraq troop surge for political reasons: She was entering the Democratic presidential primary against someone who had opposed the war from the get-go. Gates may be disappointed in Obama, but he has outright "contempt" for VP Joe Biden and many of the president's top aides, Woodward says. Some of Gates' criticism is "contradictory." Even so, "it is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president," Woodward writes.

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    Caroline Baum

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