traded higher following the data on nonfarm payrolls.
• “Job growth has seriously slowed in November. While still heading in the right direction, at this pace of 245k a month would be 3.3 years until we got back all the jobs we lost. The vaccine is coming, so it won’t take this long, but we are running the risk of backsliding.” — Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork
• “Overall, it is a disappointing report. Several high-frequency data reports, both traditional and alternative/real-time, indicated that the labor market recovery was slowing in November and today’s report confirms this notion. With COVID cases surging again and policies being put in place to try and slow the spread, hiring has slowed down. Also, worker availability is a significant limiting factor as well, with many unable to go to work due to COVID concerns or family care obligations.” — Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska, economists at Jefferies
• “Unemployment fell because of people dropping out of the labor force, and average wages appear to [have] risen because of the loss of low-wage jobs. It is not good.” — Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy and economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth
• “Tepid #jobsreport this morning. Only 245,000 new positions created (lowest in 6 months) and labor force participation dropped. The labor market is losing momentum, just as #unemployment benefits are wearing off.” — Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust
• “The headline gain of 245,000 was depressed by a 99,000 fall in government employment. That was mostly due to a 93,000 drop back in temporary census hires, though there was a further 21,000 decline in state and local education employment too. The big slowdown, however, reflected a sharp drop off in gains in discretionary services sectors, as the surge in virus cases and renewed restrictions took their toll. Employment in the leisure & hospitality sector rose by just 31,000 last month, after increasing by close to 300,000 the previous month.” — Michael Pearce, U.S. senior economist at Capital Economics
• “The rise in virus cases started to catch up with the U.S. labor market in November, as hiring slowed to a fraction of the pace seen in previous months. … Wages advanced by a better-than-expected 0.3% on the month, likely representing the shift in composition in hiring towards higher-paying industries. With the virus still spreading rapidly, December could be a more challenging month for the labor market, as some states are contemplating increasing restrictions on activity. This coincides with the expiration of a couple of federal unemployment benefit programs at the end of the year, suggesting that further fiscal support is becoming increasingly urgent.” — Katherine Judge, economist at CIBC
Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2019.
A school break changed 66-year-old Martin Farber’s life forever.
In 2007, his daughter — who at the time was attending Illinois State University — decided she wanted to spend a college holiday volunteering in Costa Rica and staying with a local family, he explains. She came home raving about the experience, so, in 2008, Farber — who at the time was living in Evanston, Ill., just outside Chicago, and selling cars — took his first trip there.
“It was a big surprise to me — bumpy roads, dogs barking in the streets,” he says. “I wasn’t enamored at first.”
But as his daughter began traveling there more and eventually moved there for a year, he took additional trips to Costa Rica. It quickly grew on him — in particular, the people. “The Costa Rican people are warm, open and friendly. I felt less invisible in a strange country in a strange town where I didn’t speak the language than I did in Evanston.”
And the more time he spent there, the more it impacted him: “On one of my trips there, I thought: My daughter’s life makes more sense than mine,” he says. “There was nothing wrong with my life, but I felt that my life was out of context with who I’d become. … I would have bills and make money to pay them, but that had ceased to be satisfying,” he recalls. “I knew I needed to change my life — there was no more joy in what I was doing.”
What’s more, when he’d return from his Costa Rica trips, people noticed. “I would come back, and my friends and therapist would say: You seem better after you go,” he says with a laugh.
Here’s what his life is like, from costs to health care to residency to everyday life:
The cost: While many expats spend way more living in Costa Rica, Farber says: “I could live on my Social Security and still save money.” He says “a person can live on $1,200 per month, two people on $2,000.” The key, he says, is to live more like he does and as the Costa Ricans do — in a modest home, eating local food and purchasing local goods.
Indeed, Farber himself spends just $300 a month for rent (he rents a home from a friend who moved recently and gave him a good deal), roughly $225 a month on groceries and just $50 a month total on water and electricity (the temperate climate in Orosi means you rarely need heat or air conditioning). The veteran Volkswagen VOW, +0.96%
salesman saves money by not owning a car (those over 65 ride municipal buses for free), which can be a significant expense in Costa Rica; for his cellphone, “I pay as I go … roughly $10 may last me a couple weeks or more,” he says, adding that “many people handle there their cellphones this way. You can get them recharged anywhere.”
His major expense is travel: He goes back to the U.S. to visit his mother in Florida several times a year and lately has spent part of the summer in Chicago helping out a friend with a dealership there. He also spends a good amount of money on health care. He says that while flights can be had for as little as $350 roundtrip during offseasons, the cost can be much higher the rest of the year.
When he developed a detached retina, though, he paid for the procedure out of pocket so that he didn’t have to wait for the required surgery, he says — adding that the entire procedure cost him about $5,000. “I would have had to have waited four days,” he says, if he had not paid to expedite matters. “That might have been fine, but it might not.” And he adds that the quality of care depends on where you get it in the country.
Lifestyle: Though Farber says that he “moved here with no goals and no agenda,” he’s found plenty to do. “I take Spanish lessons two days a week for two hours a day. It’s been great. I never thought I would acquire a usable language in my 60s,” he says. He also rides his bike all around the area, does some writing and belongs to a community group that undertakes projects to improve the area.
And he often simply takes in nature, which he says has been an essential part of why he feels calmer and more relaxed in Costa Rica than in the U.S. “I live at 3,000 feet but in a valley surrounded by coffee fields and lime trees and water. At night, if I open the windows, I can hear the river rushing by,” he says. “It is very calming … hundreds of trees everywhere … you know the Earth is alive.”
Cons: “I don’t want to overglorify. It’s not without its problems,” Farber says of Costa Rica. “There are social problems and downsides.” He notes that crime and petty theft can be a problem (“I am cautious,” he says of his approach) and seem to have increased since he moved there, and adds that he misses out on some cultural things because of where he lives. And, he says with a laugh, “I can’t order Thai food at 9 at night.” But, he adds: “These are trade-offs — in the afternoon, I get to walk in the coffee fields and see flocks of parrots.”
Residency: To qualify for Costa Rica’s pensionado visa, expats must prove that they have a pension of at least $1,000 coming in each month. (Here are the details of that program.) Once you have lived in Costa Rica for three years, you can apply for permanent residency. Farber used a lawyer to help him figure out the ins and outs of residency options; his entire path to permanent residency took about a year, he says.
The bottom line: “After five years I am still amazed and surprised that I made the decision to lead a life I never thought I would,” he says. And while he may not stay in Orosi forever — “the town doesn’t have an ambulance, [and] I don’t know what it will be like to be 80 there,” he says — he does plan to stay in Costa Rica in no small part because of the people and sense of community. “I have the feeling that life is good here,” he says. “It’s hard sometimes, but we are all in it together.”