This is obviously a breaking story and we don’t have all the details as yet but given the violence was directed at Office of Work and Income staff in Ashburton, New Zealand it already has PeakJobs implications. It also looks like the New Zealand government has responded to the threat by immediately closing down its Social Security offices in Canterbury (see second story). Via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. New Zealand shooting: Gunman kills two at government office in Ashburton, escapes on bicycle. Excerpt:

New Zealand police are hunting a gunman who killed two people in a social security office on the South Island before escaping on a bicycle. Police said a gunman wearing a balaclava entered the office of Work and Income in Ashburton, south-west of Christchurch, and opened fire. One person was killed and another died in hospital. A third person was injured and is in a serious but stable condition.

Police have named the suspect as 48-year-old John Henry Tully. It is believed the man was known to employees. He is understood to be on a disability pension, and reportedly told a local newspaper he had come home to die from an unidentified skin disease. Police have asked people to stay inside and government offices in surrounding towns have been closed.

Also via The New Zealand Herald. Police name John Henry Tully after two people shot dead at Ashburton Work and Income. Excerpt:

Winz shuts Canterbury offices

Meanwhile, police in New Plymouth are speaking to a man over a threatening phone call made to the city’s local Work and Income office earlier today. The Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive Brendan Boyle said all their offices in Ashburton, Timaru and Christchurch would be closed until further notice.

Mr Boyle said in a statement: “We are all shocked by the news of this morning’s incident at the Ashburton Work and Income office. “The Police are handling this serious situation. What I can say is that we will be there for our colleagues to support them as they come to terms with what has happened. “Until we know more, we have closed all Ministry of Social Development offices in Ashburton, Timaru and Christchurch.”

The Public Service Association (PSA) said the shooting was a tragedy. National secretary Richard Wagstaff said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy. “We don’t know what the cause is, but we will be supporting our members from Ashburton Work and Income at this terrible time.” That two people have died and one more is in a serious condition is inexcusable, and we hope the police can bring the shooter to justice. “Nobody should go to work in the morning without returning home that same day. “Our 6500 members working at Ministry of Social Development will have their Ashburton colleagues in their thoughts.”

More to follow as details come to hand.

The Economists point to macro-economic factors, such as inflexible labour markets when it comes to the decline in job fluidity but almost never point to the well documented decline in full-time employment over contingent staffing arrangements. The Economist looks at some of these factors (thanks to Mervyn Dinnen for pointing this article out to me). Fluid dynamics. Click through for the chart. Excerpt:

Historically, Europe and Japan have suffered more from inflexible labour markets. In Spain, for example, centralised wage bargaining and other protections for workers made it difficult for employers to sack permanent employees or cut their wages (these rules were recently eased). Instead, firms hired armies of temporary workers, who bore the brunt of the massive job losses that began in 2007. Similarly, the prevailing system of “lifetime” employment made it hard to reduce labour costs when deflation ate into Japanese firms’ profits. They have responded by making ever greater use of part-time workers with few protections.

America, by contrast, is a model of flexibility as millions of workers quit, or are sacked, each month and millions more are hired in a continuous process of job creation and destruction. But that picture may be incomplete. As Steven Davis of the University of Chicago and John Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland showed in a paper presented in Jackson Hole, American job markets have become less dynamic.*

The paper refers to workers’ movement in and out of jobs as “fluidity”. It has two sources. One is “job reallocation” which occurs when a shrinking or bankrupt firm sheds workers, or a new or expanding firm hires them. Job reallocation has steadily shrunk since the early 1980s. The other is “churn”, the normal business of hiring, quitting, retiring and firing, unrelated to whether a firm is growing or shrinking. Churn is much more cyclical: it fell sharply during the recession, and has barely recovered. The overall turnover of workers, including reallocation and churn, declined from 33.5% of the workforce each quarter in 1999 to 24.1% in 2010, and has since recovered only slightly (see chart).

Some of this may be down to structural changes in the economy. Fewer new businesses, a big source of newly created jobs, are being born. In some industries, big companies such as Walmart, where people tend to work longer, are taking market share from mom-and-pop operations. On-the-job training has also expanded, which requires a more lasting commitment between employee and employer.

It’s interesting stuff and well worth reading the entire article.

Some good research and advocacy here by the St Laurence Welfare Group. Australia’s youth under-employment above 15pc, highest level in almost four decades. Excerpt then a prediction:

The under-employment of young Australians has hit its highest level in nearly four decades, at more than 15 per cent. Research from the Brotherhood of St Laurence welfare group has found more than 300,000 young Australians have casual or part-time jobs but want either more work or full-time positions.

The brotherhood’s Tony Nicholson said that figure combined with those who are officially unemployed adds up to more than 500,000 young people. “If you add the unemployed to those who are under-employed, you find that about 580,000 young people are really struggling to get a foothold in the world of work,” he told AM. Combined with the unemployment rates of around 14 per cent, Mr Nicholson says it is a double blow for young Australians. “Over half of the jobs that young people are getting are casual in nature,” he said.

“Some work is better work than no work, particularly as it gives some work experience, but it does leave them in pretty tenuous circumstances from week to week, particularly for young people who don’t have the support of family and we know that across Australia there’s about 40,000 of those.

“This makes meeting their every days needs very, very difficult for them.” Youth under-employment was first recorded in 1978 at 3.1 per cent. The Brotherhood of St Laurence has told a Senate committee inquiry the Government’s proposed cuts to income support for young job seekers could be devastating for many. “The initiatives that are proposed in the budget, I think, carry an unacceptably high risk of harsh, unintended consequences,” Mr Nicholson said. “If we’re going to make inroads into youth unemployment and under-employment, we need to do much more than just make changes to income support. “We need a much more comprehensive, overarching strategy that reflects the realities of the challenges faced by young people, as they’re trying to make the transition from school to work.”

Even-Money Prediction

Cuts to income support for high-risk youth will cost lives. Full-stop.

Via Reuters (thanks to a H5N1 story by Crawford Kilian). Health workers strike at Sierra Leone Ebola hospital. A very short story so here is the full detail:

Health workers have gone on strike at a major state-run Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone, over pay and poor working conditions, hospital staff told Reuters on Saturday. Sierra Leone’s government is struggling to cope with the worst Ebola outbreak in history, that has killed more than 1,550 people across West Africa, with the rate of infection still rising.

“The workers decided to stop working because we have not been paid our allowances and we lack some tools,” said Ishmael Mehemoh, chief supervisor at the clinic in the city of Kenema, in the country’s east. Clothing to protect health workers being infected is inadequate and there is only one broken stretcher which is used to carry both patients and corpses, Mehemoh added.

More than 20 health workers have already died from Ebola at the Kenema health clinic after catching the highly contagious virus from the patients they are fighting to save. Sierra Leone’s new health minister, Abubakarr Fofana, who took over on Friday after his predecessor was sacked, said on Saturday that a doctor from the Kenema facility had died.

Health Care Workers in West Africa are currently feeling the brunt of the Ebola outbreak. In war ravaged countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia HCW’s also lack the infrastructure and equipment to mount an effective campaign against the disease spread. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise then that industrial action by medical staff is now underway.


A visually brilliant/stunning 15-minute look at how robotics and automation will shape our world in the coming decades. An absolute must watch.

The battle for the sharing economy has moved into the air where new entrants like Airpooler and Flytenow have come up against FAA regulations. Via Brookings. FAA Says No to Private Air Travel for the Masses. Excerpt:

Most Americans probably think that private air travel is only for the 1 percent, or more likely the 1 percent of the 1 percent, with the cost of private jets in the millions of dollars. Travel in small aircraft is much cheaper, but still inaccessible to most people due to the time, effort, and cost of becoming a private pilot.

The new sharing economy could change that. Just as Airbnb allows individuals to rent out all or part of their homes, and Uber and Lyft are testing out ridesharing services, two new startups are aiming to bring private air travel to the masses. Airpooler and Flytenow offer a simple service that is basically a teched-up version of the craigslist ridesharing board. Pilots post flights that they are planning to take, which passengers can sign up to share.

Travel in small planes is not only convenient, but can be surprisingly economical for passengers. A flight from Washington, DC to New York City in the 1959 Piper Comanche that I co-own with another pilot would take about 1.5 hours and cost about $125 in gas. Split four ways, the cost comes out to about $31 per passenger, a bit more expensive than a bus but much cheaper than Amtrak.

Is it legal for a private pilot to share flight costs with passengers? It definitely is as long as the pilot was going to make the flight anyway. In other words, if I’m going to New York I can bring along a friend and split the cost of gas, but if my friend asks me to fly him to New York as a favor then I have to do it for free or not at all. This may sound like bureaucratic hair-splitting, but the rules are the rules. However, apparently they may not apply to flights arranged over the Internet.

A very interesting article (thanks to Crawford Kilian for pointing it out on Twitter). Via Yle Uutiset. Finland’s poor at nearly one million. Excerpt:

Professor Juho Saari of the University of Eastern Finland says that about 800,000 Finns are currently suffering from temporary or short-term unemployment. The term refers to people whose income has fallen below poverty levels due to temporary constraints such as studies or brief bouts of unemployment.

The group of long-term unemployed currently numbers at 100,000 people. Homeless people and breadline customers are counted among long-term jobless. According to the generally accepted definition, people living below the poverty line have to survive on less than 60 percent of the median Finnish income. This means that in 2009, for instance, anyone earning less than 1080 euros a month was poor by definition.

“More than 20,000 Finns are fed weekly by breadline food,” Saari says.

Finnish employment figures are looking bleak, with no new jobs or economic upswings on the horizon. The unemployment rate in the south-central city of Lahti stood at 18.7 percent in July, currently the highest among large cities.

Long-term unemployment and the resulting poverty cause numerous problems in society. For many, the financial want is often short-term, and may not lead to health or welfare issues.

According to Statistics Finland the current unemployment rate in Finland has dropped from 10.7% some two months ago to 7% in July with 193,000 persons out of work.