This morning while I was surfing through the various news sites, I spotted this article from Fortune (via CNN) with the headline:
What happens when the jobless give up?
As one of the millions of long term un/underemployed I can only say that for myself, giving up is not a viable option. I search everyday for a position within my professional field of Software Quality Assurance and Testing.
I have written a few posts about my skills, both official (resume skills) and unofficial (not pertinent to the resume but job skills nevertheless). I have written about why I love my professional field and about being an unemployed human and not a statistic. I have written about how folks have it far worse than I do, coping with the job search as well as numerous times discussing the idiocies of our elected officials and the talking heads.
The article I linked to up in the first paragraph starts off somewhat reasonably:
FORTUNE -- What happens to a nation's collective psyche when millions of once-productive people remain out of work for months or even years? What happens when unemployed husbands resign themselves to relying on a wife's income, when unemployed wives feel trapped at home, when twenty- and thirtysomethings calculate that they'd rather live off their parents than face a cut-throat job market, when middle-aged men and women stop searching for jobs after realizing they're hopelessly lost in a haze of rapid-fire technological change?
The pre-holiday bickering over tax cuts and extending unemployment benefits is drowning out a December government number so frightening it should concentrate the minds of every posturing political leader in Washington: 9.8% unemployment. That is staggering, up from when the recession ended 18 months ago, and comes despite signs of recovery in retail, real estate, and corporate profits.
However, it very soon veers off into a land of supposition and false equivalencies, repeating many of the standard talking points that have been debunked time and again yet keep being presented as fact. Of course, the most worthless of these myths is that people are just too picky and "cushioned" by unemployment so are unwilling to take a "lower paying or lower prestige" job. With an average weekly unemployment benefit of $293 a week, people are not collecting unemployment because it is a "free vacation" (as I've heard Larry Kudlow expound on a few times over the years). When you've been making $40K, $50K, $60K per annum to suddenly be receiving 38% of that is a shock to the system and rather than "cushioning" the unemployed person (though in fact it does do this), the psychological imperative is to drive to find something as close as possible to the old position in order to get back to the previous salary level.
In today's economy there are at least five applicants for EVERY open position. That means, even those lowest paying, minimum wage positions have competition. It means employers can demand a degree and multiple years experience for a position that pays $20K per annum. As the article notes, there are "recoveries" in "retail, real estate, and corporate profits" but these areas are limited in their ability to lift up the entire economy. State and local governments are still hemorrhaging jobs at all levels due to decreased tax revenues. School districts are still laying off teachers while cutting classes offered and increasing student teacher ratios. Businesses are more willing to force workers to work overtime for long periods than to hire new staff.
I do not know what the answer is but I have a pretty good idea that the actions being taken in Washington will do very little to lower the 9.8& official unemployment rate much less lower the underemployment and discouraged rates which officially are at 17% but most likely even higher. There are millions of people looking for gainful full time employment. Even those who have "given up" would be back in the labor pool in a New York minute if they had any indications that political officials or business executives were actually serious about fixing the systemic problems rather than just political posturing.
And because I can: