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Should I worry about the U.S. economy? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Question: There has been so much news about the U.S. economy lately and it is starting to make me a bit nervous. I work for the Canadian division of a large American company that specializes in software. I have considered my job to be fairly secure for the past five years or so. But with housing prices decreasing across the border, and talk of a possible recession there, I'm beginning to be concerned. What are the odds I'll get downsized if our U.S. sale start slipping, even though our Canadian division is performing well above average?

Michael A. , Toronto
Dear Michael ,

The time for panic has not yet arrived...not by a long shot. It is too soon to predict how the U.S. economy will absorb recent downturns in housing, employment and consumer optimism. And how much their slowdown might spill over our borders.

That said, when the American elephant sneezes, it's usually Canada that catches cold. So ignoring what's happening to your parent company in the U.S. is not in your best interest. Then again, obsessing over it won't do you much good either. The ''middle way'' might work best here, which means keeping an eye on developments south of the 49 th parallel, while focusing your efforts on excelling here at home.

It is an unfortunate quirk of business that it is sometimes more expedient for foreign companies (including those whose head office is in the States) to squeeze their non-domestic offices for bigger profits before doing so over there. Why? Because if they start laying off people left, right and centre at home, they are bound to take the heat for this in their own communities and local media.

Another thing: when demand for products softens in America , it's us who take the hit if we're the ones manufacturing the product. Here is a good example of this. The head office of General Motors Canada is in Oshawa , Ontario . Its parent company, General Motors Corp., resides in Detroit , Michigan . A few weeks ago a decision was made to lay off about 1,200 auto workers at GM Canada, mostly at a plant of theirs in Oshawa . The reason given is ''poor pickup truck sales in the U.S. ''

So you see, Michael , no matter how well your Canadian division performs, and regardless if you yourself are a superstar at work, external influences could come in to play that make your job a touch less secure.

Does that mean it's time to dust off your resume? Probably not. But you might want to give some added thought before making that expensive new purchase. Or to taking on too much debt. The jury's still out on which way the economy will go. However if you're already starting to question how secure your job is, which can be stressful in and of itself, it may make sense to keep your options open and your anxieties minimized.

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