Nothing but the truth


Those who create their own reality make me suspicious.

Truth is a closely held belief. I’ve known that for sometime. Which is why in times of confusion I navigate toward the numbers. They never let you down. Four-hundred, ninety is 490, Monday through Friday, without fail. Unemotional. Consistent. Reliable.

However, today, even numbers seem to have taken on emotion and blur with harbored intent. Unemployment numbers. Immigration numbers. Even lay-off numbers.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but honest numbers matter. They matter in commerce. They matter to the sanctity of a contract. They matter to integrity.

They certainly matter in the world of multifamily.

Without jobs, there are no residents to pay the rent. Household formation is stunted. Generations stumble.

Immigration affects apartments greatly. Immigrants are statistically likely to live in apartments. They staff our on-site teams. And quite often, the leasing office becomes a testing ground where legal theory goes live; the cost of which is borne by the apartment owner and operator.

Finally, there are the continuing lay-offs that feed unemployment and underemployment.

Full disclosure. I have a dog in the fight. I have Millennial sons in the workforce, one an unemployed veteran. And dear friends who are unemployed and underemployed. And I am attached at the hip to an industry that thrives on household formation and healthy employment. I am vested, fully and without exception to a healthy economy and those things that authentically and squarely build a productive society.

So I find a couple things curious.

Thing 1: Unemployment, those pesky details
Aside from the curious place Gallop found itself sometime ago with its largest customer, the U.S. government, I was fascinated to read Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallop article, “The Big Lie.” It’s an interesting exercise to compare the scaled down U-3 version of the unemployment rate with the all-in U-6 version, which is over 13%.

In and of itself, a 13% unemployment rate doesn’t change anything. But the truth will set you free as we push on to Thing 2.

Thing 2: Immigration reform: filling the skills’ gap in America
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics known as “STEM” jobs headline a big push in education these days. It’s predicated on the perception that there aren’t enough qualified Americans, (particularly girls in some circles) who are graduating with these degrees to fill the many and growing tech jobs openings.

Is there a tech shortage in America? Bill Gates thinks so.

Except that while H-1B visas are officially capped at 85,000 on the books, a recent report by Senator Jeff Sessions actually places the H-1B workers present in the U.S. as high as 750,000. Which makes sense since 2 of 3 jobs in IT are filled by foreign labor. The dark side of this number is that according to Sessions’ report, 3 in 4 Americans with a STEM degree do not hold a job in the STEM field. (Translation: 11 million Americans with STEM qualifications are not employed in a STEM-related field.)

Thing 3: Lay-offs
Within weeks of Bill Gates’ op-ed soliciting the approval of more foreign workers to fill STEM jobs, Microsoft announced the layoff of 18,000 workers.

I’m delighted that the apartment industry has found its way through to good times in spite of “2 sets of books” on the fundamentals. I suppose even numbers can be a closely held belief.