Tom Hudson: Engagement key in elections, job market

Engagement is a big buzzword these days. Bosses want employees to be engaged with their work. Teachers want engaged students. Marketers offer ideas to spark engagement. Social media allows anyone with an Internet connection to be engaged. Consumers want products and services that are engaging.

So what, then, should investors make of the diminishing engagement of two critical pieces of our economy on display in the new week: employment and the election?

First, voting. Voter turnout for a midterm election regularly is lower than during presidential election years. But the gap is growing. The Pew Research Center found 51 percent of voters cast ballots in 1948, when President Harry Truman held aloft the famous and erroneous Chicago Daily Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” In the midterm election two years later, 41 percent turned out.

Presidential voting engagement has remained steady. In 2012, 54 percent of eligible voters showed up, propelling President Obama to a second term. But two years earlier, during the 2010 midterms, barely one in three voters bothered to fill out a ballot. On Tuesday, we will see how engaging this midterm election cycle has been.

At the same time, fewer Americans are attached to the job market. Fewer than two out of every three adults who could be working are considered part of the labor force. Americans have not been this disengaged with working since 1977. Some of this may be explained by Baby Boomers retiring — except for the employment level for workers 55 years and older continues growing. On Friday, the monthly employment data is expected to show more than 200,000 new jobs were added to the American economy in October, yet participation remains historically low.

Engagement is a function of tying interests to outcomes. For long-term investors, that’s a prosperous, sustainable and broad-based economy.

Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts The Sunshine Economy on WLRN-FM in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.