$3.7 BILLION HEDGE FUND: 'Perhaps we need to put our phones down and get back to work'

Cellphone addiction, particularly among millennials, may be hurting the labor force and the economy at large.

That's according to a $3.7 billion New York hedge fund, Tourbillon Capital Partners.

"Perhaps we aren't in secular stagnation. Perhaps we need to put our phones down and get back to work," founder Jason Karp wrote in the firm's third-quarter investor letter, a copy of which was obtained by Business Insider.

"At the risk of sounding like an old-man curmudgeon and a Luddite, I believe this to be a massive problem for society at large," Karp added. "All businesses globally, where employees have smartphones, are not getting as many true labor hours as we think."

Karp lists several concerns, including that millennials and teens are addicted to their smartphones and computers. Millennials check their phones over 150 times per day compared with about 30 times for the average adult, Karp wrote, citing Facebook data. Meanwhile, the average human's attention span has dropped.

"Undoubtedly, access to such time-saving technologies has dramatically increased our potential productivity," Karp wrote. "But what if we are spending those saved hours on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the like. As much of the above data shows, we unfortunately are spending those hours on our phones."

That's making people less productive at work, and it might be keeping wages down, according to Tourbillon. Since the financial crisis, wages have been growing, but at a slow pace, federal data shows. That's even as wages surged in the latest figures, reported earlier this month.

Screen Shot 2016 11 15 at 1.18.41 PM
Screen Shot 2016 11 15 at 1.18.41 PM


Here's more from the Tourbillon letter:

  • "In an odd way, the democratization of the smartphone has led to increased 'wealth' and decreased hours work despite the economic data showing no such drop in hours worked."

  • "There are enormous implications for this, both long and short. This ability to consume leisure and goods so easily has forever altered our attitudes toward convenience and avoiding hassle."

  • "While most employers think they are paying their employees for 10 hours of labor a day, they are, in fact, only getting 8 or fewer hours of actual labor. Perhaps the lack of rising wages and anemic growth in most sectors is not a function of any true stagnation, but really it is because people have chosen to consume far more leisure during the workday. ... When true hours worked equals what the employers are paying for, wages will rise, slack will be reduced and our increased productivity will really be evident once and for all."

  • "Even 18 years ago, when I joined the workforce, it was far more difficult to consume leisure at work. If I wanted to see what a friend was up to, I had to call him (and others could see or overhear). Or I would visit them at night or on the weekends. ... Getting groceries, doing errands, planning big things had to be done on weekends or outside the office. Not anymore."

Tourbillon's master fund was up 9.1% net of fees for the third quarter, compared with 3.3% with the S&P 500, according to the letter. Year to date through October 30, the fund was down 7.4% net of fees, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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