Via Variety. Warner Bros. Expected to Cut as Many as 1,000 Jobs (EXCLUSIVE). Excerpt:

Warner Bros. Entertainment is expected to cut as many as 900 to 1,000 jobs worldwide as part of a studio-wide cost-cutting move, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. The estimated reductions would amount to more than 10% of the studio’s 9,000-person workforce. The cuts will be made in late October or early November.

Senior managers are currently assessing their businesses to come up with ways to trim overhead. Only at the end of that process will an exact reduction figure be known. It could be somewhat lower than the current numbers being speculated, but cuts are expected to be substantial. “There is no head count target or percentage reduction target,” said Dee Dee Myers, Warner Bros.’ new executive vice president of corporate communications. “This is a budget issue, not a head count issue,” she added.

I’m sure if you one of the 1,000 people who will soon lose your job (with little likelihood of picking up something else in a revenue declining industry) you might think differently to Dee Dee Myers who sounds like my job is safe, this time.

 

As a former soldier this is a tough blog to write and on a controversial subject.

In the movie Jack Reacher (2012) the main character makes the statement, “There are four types of people who join the military. For some, it’s family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. Next you have those who just need a job. Than there’s the kind who want the legal means of killing other people.

I think the author, Lee Child misses an important category that might not have been all that apparent back in the late 1990’s when Jack Reacher walks the earth (but more on that later).

It’s been a long time for me but when I was a highly suggestive teenager I felt that the only way to get out of a dead-end job in Bendigo, Victoria might be to join the Army. As the recruiting ads of the time suggested joining the Army was not just another ‘job’ and it was certainly much better than pecking at a typewriter or working in a local factory. My dream of being a soldier was somewhat reflected in this Australian Army ad series that ran through 1987.

In this 61-second ad less than 4-seconds (6.5%) is dedicated to office or rear echelon duties while 6-seconds (10%) is dedicated at the end to give you the relevant contact numbers. 51-seconds (83.5%) of the vision is reserved for jumping out of planes, helicopters, driving APC’s, shooting and blowing things up. As a kid who grew up on a steady diet of Rambo movies and Mack Bolan books I couldn’t think of anything better than fast-roping out of the Huey chopper or firing anti-tank weapons.

Now look at the next Australian Army ad from 2014.

The three big data-points that jump out of me:

1. The first is that in this 60-second ad 52-seconds (86.7%) is dedicated to office or rear echelon duties and I can only find approximately eight-seconds of vision that looks combat related;
2. The eight Australian Army ‘Other Capabilities’ Wish-List makes for interesting reading. In Order: Leading, Teaching, Inspiring, Creating, Adventurers, Educators, Warriors and finally Nurturers. Yes, being a Warrior ranks seven only outranking Nurturers;
3. The best for last. Not one single person fires a weapon, nor is there a single explosion.

We obviously live in a world where we try to pretend to ourselves that the ADF main function is to do anything but smash things up.

The other team has no such qualms about what its narrative is. In terms of recruitment this is what we are up against.

Put aside the narrative. This is a very slick piece of recruitment.

Look a bit more at the young men who are attracted to the wars in the Middle East, Ukraine or the Democratic Republic of Congo. When they are interviewed they are generally engaged, animated and excited about their life. Why shouldn’t they. Sure you might die, but you were dying slowly in your ghetto [insert modern ghetto or region] and your now surrounded by your mates in the middle of [insert country] doing something. Whether your a Muslim kid from the Western Suburbs of Sydney, a former French soldier or a skin-head from Kurskaya your future at home is one of almost perpetual poverty, underemployment and jobs that at best might involve pecking at a computer trying to move up the chain, working in a factory that will be transitioning to automation or as a check-out staffer in the local supermarket.

Back to the subject of why a person joins the military, a question my nine-year old son pesters me about constantly. My view is that there are five types of people who join the military. For some, it’s family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. You have those who just need a job and you have some that don’t but are bored by civilian life. Finally you have those that want the legal means of killing other people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Via The World Bank. . Excerpt and then a dire prediction or two of my own:

A World Bank Group analysis of the Ebola epidemic released today finds that if the virus continues to surge in the three worst-affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone – its economic impact could grow eight-fold, dealing a potentially catastrophic blow to the already fragile states. However, the analysis finds that economic costs can be limited if swift national and international responses succeed in containing the epidemic and mitigating “aversion behavior” – a fear factor resulting from peoples’ concerns about contagion, which is fueling the economic impact.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “The primary cost of this tragic outbreak is in human lives and suffering, which has already been terribly difficult to bear. But our findings make clear that the sooner we get an adequate containment response and decrease the level of fear and uncertainty, the faster we can blunt Ebola’s economic impact.” “We have seen in recent days a serious scaling up on the part of international donors to contain the Ebola epidemic. Today’s report underscores the huge potential costs of the epidemic if we don’t ramp up our efforts to stop it now,” said Kim.

The analysis uses two alternative scenarios to estimate the medium-term impact of the epidemic to the end of calendar year 2015. A “Low Ebola” scenario envisions rapid containment within the three core countries, while “High Ebola” corresponds to the upper ranges of current epidemiological estimates.

All three countries badly need to maintain their economic momentum to deal with a catalogue of problems and raise desperately low living standards. Moreover, the worst case impacts on Sierra Leone and Liberia would be more severe than a “normal” global recession, though not as large as the most devastating conflicts. Both Sierra Leone and Liberia have had years during civil wars in which their economies contracted by more than 20%.

140917_Image_WorldBank_ImpactsofEbola

The analysis estimates the short-term impact on output to be 2.1 percentage points of GDP in Guinea (reducing growth from 4.5 percent to 2.4 percent); 3.4 percentage points in Liberia (reducing growth from 5.9 percent to 2.5 percent); and 3.3 percentage points in Sierra Leone (reducing growth from 11.3 percent to 8 percent). This forgone output corresponds to $359 million in 2014 prices.  However, if Ebola is not contained, these estimates rise to $809 million in the three countries alone. In Liberia, the hardest hit country, the High Ebola scenario sees output hit 11.7 percentage points in 2015 (reducing growth from 6.8 percent to -4.9 percent).

The short-term fiscal impacts are also large, at $93 million for Liberia (4.7 percent of GDP); $79 million for Sierra Leone (1.8 percent of GDP); and $120 million for Guinea (1.8 percent of GDP). Slow containment gaps would almost certainly lead to even greater financing gaps in 2015, the analysis finds.

I have already commented on the initial impact to the Liberian Medium Term Expenditure Framework (or austerity budget) in a previous Peak Jobs blog. Long story short the Liberian dollar is depreciating making exports which are in structural decline during this crisis more valuable but imports more expensive. This alone would put huge pressure on a budget worth approximately $7-million USD but you also have a health budget that now needs massive investments and on my linear projections from a recent announcement by Minister Konneh that will require approximately 15% of the annual budget. Even with foreign support the federal Liberian budget will collapse under the weight of an exponential growth in Ebola numbers this year.

Lay-Down Misère Prediction(s)

The problem with looking at documents like the Liberian MTEF or the GDP of the impacted countries of West African outbreak (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia) is that a lot of the money flowing through that region is either informal (non-taxable) or resides in the black economy. So, my first prediction is that all three countries will have economic impacts above what the World Bank (and others) are suggesting as both the formal economy (worth approximately $12.9-billion USD according to the World Bank) and the informal economy both take a massive hit.

The second prediction I want to make is that and I am on the record for saying this many times but there is massive profit (or at least a decent margin) in poverty. Forward Operating Countries like Senegal (2012 GDP $26.5-billion) or Ghana (2013 GDP $103-billion) will benefit from the outbreak as they take a slice of the international support that is starting to flow in.

This is a story that has been bouncing around my Twitter chatter for some days now, primarily because I follow one of its key exponents Ryan Calo. The Guardian has also picked up on the idea. US needs a Federal Robotics Commission, says think tank. Excerpt:

The US needs a federal robotics commission to co-ordinate its handling of artificial intelligence and robotics, according to the influential Brookings Institute think tank. Without such a commission, the institute warns, America’s piecemeal response could lead to other nations taking the lead.

“Much of the problem turns on the lack of familiarity with robotics and the sorts of issues the mainstreaming of this technology occasions,” argues Ryan Calo, the report’s author. “The FAA does not know what to say to Amazon about delivering goods by drone, and so it says ‘no.’” “At least initially, then, a Federal Robotics Commission would be small and consist of a handful of engineers and others with backgrounds in mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, and human-computer interaction, right alongside experts in law and policy. It would hardly be the first interdisciplinary agency: the FTC houses economists and technologists in addition to its many lawyers, for example.”

Such an agency would be important to tackle the many interrelated problems faced by autonomous devices and software in fields ranging from driverless cars to Twitter bots. For instance, the question of liability is crucial in both fields: if a Twitter bot libels someone, can its creator be held liable? What about if a self-driving car crashes in to someone? When it comes to the latter field, Calo argues, “the addition of even a tiny new area of liability could have outsized repercussions.

“A robot may always be better than a human driver at avoiding a shopping cart. And it may always be better at avoiding a stroller. But what happens when a robot confronts a shopping cart and a stroller at the same time? You or I would plow right into a shopping cart—or even a wall—to avoid hitting a stroller. A driverless car might not. “The first headline, meanwhile, to read “Robot Car Kills Baby To Avoid Groceries” could end autonomous driving in the United States—and, ironically, drive fatalities back up.”

One of my key observations when I was embedded within a federal regulator is when new technology arises the first bureaucratic inclination is quite passive. Think about the exponential rise of UAV’s in recent years and global governments response in terms of safety oversight and regulation.

The ABC had a follow-up article on a minor BHP job-cut announcement that is worthy of note if your taking a long view on iron ore production globally or your looking at Australian iron ore employment. Via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. BHP Billiton cuts iron ore jobs in Port Hedland. I’ll provide all the detail from this very short story and give something back to the Ebonnie Spriggs for consideration:

BHP Billiton is slashing job numbers in Port Hedland but has refused to say how many positions will ultimately go. It is understood about 35 positions were made redundant at the company’s Nelson Point operations in Port Hedland late last week. In a statement, the company said it was focused on safely increasing volumes and reducing costs, including through what it called “people-related productivity initiatives”.

The miner said in the coming months some employees based in Port Hedland would be affected by changes to the structure and size of the workforce. BHP said it would discuss the changes directly with impacted employees, who would be offered redeployment where possible. Hundreds of jobs have already been axed from BHP’s iron ore division, including from its Perth headquarters, this year.

In an interview with Andrew Duffy of Mining News Premium which took place at the start of June I mentioned that I was interested in how the lowered price of iron ore might impact jobs in that resource type given that coal had been in long-term price decline with a corresponding loss of jobs (as at August we were in the 26th straight month of coal mining job losses). Later that month the West Australian posted a piece on the possibility that BHP might cut 3,000 jobs.

Now, that piece by the West Australian might have been a bit sensationalist at the time (I thought the job cuts might be half of that number, maybe a bit more) BUT BHP is quietly cutting consistently as are other iron ore miners. The Port Hedland job cuts, which amount to just 35-jobs would now amount to four months out of the last five where iron ore miners have cut jobs. I’m also sure if I reviewed my sources a little harder from last month I would find cuts in September.

Perhaps the fall for iron employment won’t be as hard as coal on the East Coast. Certainly the depreciation in the dollar might cushion the fall somewhat.

Still, the question needs to be asked. Are we commencing the long cycle of Iron Ore job cuts in (Western) Australia?

A timely piece a day before Scotland decides on becoming independent or stays as part of the United Kingdom. Via the BBC. Daily question: How do jobs fit into the referendum debate? Click through for a number of interesting links, analysis and a good chart detailing the spread between unemployment and Jobseeker’s allowance. Excerpt:

Whether Scotland votes “Yes” or “No”, it really is unclear whether there would be a growing workforce and shorter dole-queues. We’re emerging from a long economic downturn. The financial crisis of 2008 saw banks collapse like dominoes, and unemployment soar – not just in Scotland and the UK, but in most Western countries. This economic heart-attack ushered in years of stagnation, with many countries still struggling to emerge from the downturn. Some – like Greece and Italy – are still in recession. The UK, by contrast, has picked up in recent months, and its economy’s grown faster than any other country in the G7 group of leading industrial nations. This recovery’s taken many by surprise: the IMF and others have had to revise upwards their predictions for economic growth, as the UK’s economy performed better than expected.

Employment tends to be a “lagging indicator” of the economy, which means that as output rises, so too will employment. The jobless rate in Scotland has fallen to 6.4% in the period July to August. For once, that’s exactly the same as for the UK as a whole. Unemployment has fallen by 63,000 in a year. Scotland’s economy is now bigger than it was before the crash of 2008. Employment in Scotland – the total workforce – is at an all-time high. The UK economy has changed dramatically since the 1970s. The labour market is now far more flexible. During the downturn, this helped keep the jobless total much lower than some had feared. Mass unemployment was replaced by widespread under-employment, as people eked out part-time jobs, or seasonal or casual or fixed-term work. The result’s been a record level of employment, even if the UK’s economy has failed to deliver higher living standards for its citizens. In the last year in the UK we’ve seen employment rise by more than 800,000.

The Better Together campaign argues that a “Yes” vote in the referendum puts the UK’s recovery at risk, and it claims that political divorce – however amicable – would create barriers to growth. It says uncertainty over a future Scottish currency, tax rates and EU membership threaten the UK’s single market, and Scottish companies’ ability to trade internationally, with a consequent threat to jobs and livelihoods.

However, the Yes campaign says independence would create not risk, but opportunities to grow the Scottish economy and boost the workforce. It claims an independent Scottish government, with all the economic levers at its disposal, would be able to fine-tune the environment for businesses, growth and jobs better than Westminster can do right now. Its supporters point to other small countries – like New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland – which are wealthy and successful – and ask: “Why not here?”

An interesting update on the Microsoft job cuts that were announced earlier this year. Via ZDNET. Round two of Microsoft layoffs coming September 18: Sources. Excerpt:

Later this week, Microsoft will lay off another group of employees as part of its planned cuts of 18,000 announced back in July, according to sources close to the company. Microsoft officials said in July that the company would be realigning its worldwide workforce by cutting 18,000 jobs, with 12,500 of those cuts coming from employees Microsoft acquired as part of its acquisition of Nokia’s handset and services business. Microsoft officials said the layoffs would happen over the course of several waves. Microsoft officials said 1,351 of the first round of employees cut would be based in the Redmond area.

Microsoft cut 13,000 employees total in the first wave back in July. That wave included some, but not all, of the former Nokia employees, my contacts say. It also included employees in the Operating Systems Group and just about every other group across the company. Microsoft is also planning to reduce its dependency on “contingent” (non full-time) employees by 20 percent as part of the realignment.

Mary Jo Foley goes on to state that her sources are saying the further job cuts will be announced via internal correspondence this Thursday (18 September) and that Microsoft would not comment on the matter.

Microsoft currently employs approximately 125,000 globally.