An illustration of anecdotal vs. statistical

Despite our best efforts, we often confuse anecdotal vs. statistical evidence. Things that we observe in our immediate area may not be reflective of what is going on in the world as a whole.

I just fell victim to this confusion this morning, when I spotted a Matt Egan CNN Business article on my LinkedIn feed.

The title of the article: “From Exxon to Charles Schwab, white-collar job cuts are mounting.” Egan’s first paragraph:

The pandemic has wiped out millions of mostly low-income jobs in hotels, restaurants, retail and other hard-hit corners of the economy. Now, the pink slips are spreading to higher-paid office workers.

As I read this, I immediately took exception to the word “Now” in the final sentence. Where has Egan been during the last few months, I thought. After all, my own pink slip was received several months ago, and during the summer my LinkedIn feed was filled with others receiving pink slips – ironically, including employees of LinkedIn itself. Certainly these data points that I have observed around me indicate that the white collar world was hurting long before “now.”

Then Egan threw a statistic into the article.

Nearly 40% of low-income workers lost their jobs in March, according to the Federal Reserve.

And that illustrated what truly happened to the blue collar jobs, vs. what happened to the white collar jobs.

Amazon did not lay off 40% of its white collar workforce in March. My own former company did not lay off 40% of its white collar workers in March. For the most part, the white collar companies did things such as send people home to work, and cut travel as much as possible.

In fact, when the first stimulus check came in the spring, I thought to myself, what am I going to do with this? I have a good company job. (I ended up using part of it to install a home mesh network, something that I’m really thankful for these days.)

So, despite my early negative reaction, it turned out Matt Egan was right. White collar positions HAVE been spared in a relative sense over the last few months.

We will see what happens during the next few months.

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