close this bookVolume 7: No. 61
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Spending on the Year 2000 problem will reach $280B between 1997 and 2002, according to Killen & Associates. 52% will be in North America, 28% Europe, 17% Asia. [Reuters, 10Aug97. net-hap.]

Economists say that they still can't measure any productivity gain from billions of dollars of US investment in computers and information technology. Spending on technology has grown rapidly -- perhaps exponentially -- to 268% of the 1982 level, but worker productivity has increased only slowly and linearly, to 119% of 1982. Some economists think we just aren't measuring service productivity (such as convenience to customers); some think that computers are just too small a factor to show up in macroeconomic statistics; some -- including Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan -- think we're about to "turn the corner" and see exponential productivity growth; and some think that information technology wastes as much time as it saves, what with support costs, debugging, training, rapid obsolescence, futzing, Web surfing, PowerPoint slides, and the like. Meanwhile, businesses "continue to binge on information technology." Surely they're not just getting fooled year after year, decade after decade. [Scott Thurm, SJM, 14Sep97, 1E.]

The good news: US business productivity in 2Qtr97 increased at the fastest pace in 3.5 years. [SJM, 10Sep97, 1C.]

Joblessness is dipping to record lows in the US, but people are staying unemployed for about 16 weeks on average. It's because consumer confidence is high and people are being more choosy. [Merrill Lynch. BW, 15Sep97, p. 8.]

The Japanese are facing 3.4% unemployment, which is a real strain on their system. (It was considered high at 2.1% in 1991.) Formerly, employees hired as a group would be promoted as a group, eventually reaching top management ranks and then retiring as a group. The older you got, the less work there was for you to do. Now, efficiency is forcing more of a pyramid system. Many older workers have been let go, joining a pool of younger workers who have never bought into the lifetime employment system. [Michael Zielenziger, SJM, 14Sep97, 1E.] (Salary cuts for other executives are also needed, but companies have been avoiding "bringing shame." No big company wants to be the first to do it.)

The California Supreme Court has ruled that age discrimination should carry the same legal penalties as race and gender discrimination. [LA Times. SJM, 28Aug97, 1C.]