Posts tagged with: recession

Unemployment worries still dog economy’s recovery

It’s hard to feel that the economy is getting better if you don’t have a job. But lately we’ve seen several positive reports suggesting that the worst of the recession may have passed us by. The economy, analysts say, is no longer in freefall.

But that doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your job and can’t pay your home mortgage, does it?

Gail MarksJarvis, a financial writer for the Chicago Tribune, does a good job summarizing why unemployment might slow the nation’s economic recovery significantly. You can read the story here.

MarksJarvis interviews financial experts who worry that the unemployment rate in the United States might hit 10 percent or higher and then stay there. If that happens, it can have a devastating impact on the rest of the economy. Think about it: With more people out of work, there’ll be fewer buying nonessential items at local stores. Fewer people will move into new homes. It’s all related.

So enjoy the good economic news reports. We certainly can use some good news these days. But remember, until unemployment goes down, we won’t see an economic recovery that truly feels like a recovery.

The unpaid furlough strikes again

A friend of mine took a job with the city of Chicago late last year. He loves his new job. He likes the people he works with. And he’s thrilled that his commute each morning takes about 15 minutes.

He’s not thrilled, though, that tomorrow, the 4th of July, he’ll be taking his first of many unpaid holidays.

My friend is like many other workers out there: He’s being forced to take unpaid days off — furloughs — to help his employer, in this case, the city of Chicago, balance its books. My friend has to take 15 days off without pay by the end of the year.

He’s of two minds on this: First, he’s glad he has a job when so many others don’t. Secondly, he’s ticked that the rules of his employment have suddenly changed. It’s not his fault, after all, that the city of Chicago can’t manage its money.

He’s not too unusual, I suppose. There are so many people being forced to take unpaid days off now. I know it’s a better alternative than firings or layoffs. But, still, it always seems that the employees get screwed whenver there’s a financial crisis. I guess it’s true what they say: You’ll never make a fortune by working for someone else.

Is this the era of “good enough?”

I’ve written a lot lately about employees having to do more work, for no extra pay, to make up for all their fired or laid-off co-workers.

The other day, a friend of mine finished a big project at work. He wasn’t happy with the quality, but wasn’t able to do much about it. He was juggling three other big jobs thanks to layoffs at the financial-services firm at which he works. He told me that the work was from his best, but that it was “good enough.”

Unfortunately, “good enough” seems to be the new standard.

Personally, I’ve turned in “good enough” work lately, too. That’s because I’m having to take on smaller, lower-paying assignments to make up for all the regular magazine clients who have shut their doors or slashed their freelance-writing budgets.

It’s more than a little depressing. Most employees want to take pride in their work. But it’s not easy doing this when you’re doing the jobs of two other people. It becomes a matter of shoving product out the door.

Like I said, it’s a shame. But companies have to realize, when you fire everyone, you can’t expect top quality.

Letting work slip through the cracks

I’m sure there are no official statistics on this, but I wonder how many of us are getting a bit sloppy at work these days?

It’s not intentional. And it’s not laziness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Employees are taking on more work at their jobs. They have to: A growing number of companies are operating with skeleton staffs thanks to all the layoffs and firings caused by the recession.

At my job, where I’m the editor of a trade magazine, I’ve lost my one staff writer. I now put the magazine together on my own. Earlier this month, my bosses gave me one more magazine to help edit, increasing my workload again.

I’m happy to have my job. I just wish there wasn’t so much of it to deal with.

Because I am taking on this extra work, I’ve noticed I’ve gotten a bit sloppy. I missed a freelance deadline today. I forgot to send back some interview questions for another Web site earlier this week. And this morning, I begged off a writing assignment I had taken on. I just didn’t have time to do a good job on it.

That’s terribly unprofessional, of course. But for my addled brain, there was no other solution.

What about you? Are you overworked these days? Are you letting the little things — or maybe some big things — slip through the cracks?

Fewer job openings means more unemployment

The number of job openings hit a new low in April. Not surprisingly, this has caused unemployment to jump again, this time by 0.5 percent in May.

You can read the dismal numbers in this story in the Nashville Business Journal. The basics, though, are this: As of the last day of April, there were 2.5 million job openings in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s the lowest number of openings since the Labor Department first started tracking them in 2000.

The number of openings is also a 3.9 percent drop from the end of March, and a 36.2 percent fall from April of 2008.

So you wonder why unemployment can’t seem to fall? This is why. There just aren’t enough jobs available right now. It’s clear, then, that the nation’s recession won’t end until employers finally begin hiring people again.

When’s that going to happen? That’s the big question.

Obama promises more than 600,000 new jobs

The unemployment rate for the nation is now above 9 percent. That’s pretty awful. Pres. Barack Obama isn’t happy about this, either. After all, high unemployment figures are keeping the economy from recovering.

Today, Obama promised that the $787 billion stimulus plan will result in more than 600,000 new jobs this summer.

Federal agencies are expected to spend billions of dollars on public-works projects, schools and summer youth programs. And all these projects will bring jobs, Obama said.

The new jobs will certainly help. But these don’t exactly look like stable, long-term jobs. What the country really needs is for companies to start hiring again.

I wonder, though, if this recession has signifcantly altered the world of business. Will companies that have shed so much of their workforce continue to expect their employees to do more work without any pay increases even after the economy recovers? Have businesses discovered that they can squeeze even more work out of their employers?

I certainly hope not. But as I look at the publishing company where I work, and see the amount of work that our now skeletal staff is turning in, I wonder if my bosses might get used to this.

You want to be a mortgage loan officer? Really

I have a friend who wants to work as a mortgage loan officer. And that’s with me telling him everyday that mortgage lending squeezes the life out of people. It’s a stressful job. Customers get angry with you when you quote them interest rates that they think are too high. The folks who qualify the mortgage loans officers make are always mad, too, finding all the mistakes that loan officers make.

The government’s constantly on the backs of mortgage companies these days, seemingly waching every loan they make for improprieties. And then there’s the public: We hate mortgage loan officers these days. In fact, many of us place a large share of the blame for today’s recession at the feet of mortgage lenders who kept on making stupid mortgage loans to people who should never have owned homes.

All that being said, my friend wants to enter this profession. That’s even considering the huge number of mortgage loan officers that have either been fired or who have fled the profession in the last year-and-a-half.

I asked him what he was thinking. He told me that there’s less competition now. A good businessman, like himself, can really thrive in the industry today.

Interesting theory. It’s one I hadn’t considered. It might also explain those people who are now working toward real estate licenses. With home sales still sluggish, you wouldn’t think that anyone would want to be a realtor these days. But there are people taking the plunge.

Maybe in some ways it does make sense to enter an industry when it’s down. There is less competition. It’s easier to make a name for yourself if you’re smart, hardworking and good at what you do.

We’ll see what happens to my friend. Maybe he’ll be the one laughing as he rakes in the big bucks.

Of course, he might be back at the unemployment line soon, too.

What are you resorting to in this down economy?

I used to scoff at freelance writers who would take crummy assignments for low pay. It seemed demeaning to me. Writers are professionals, and we should be paid like it.

Well, these scoffing days are now officially over. For the last two weeks, I’ve joined the ranks of what are known as online content writers. Think of it as working on an assembly line, only for a writer.

Basically, I’m taking on $12 assignments to write short “stories” — usually about 400 words or so — about bland topics such as pillow cushions, motorcycle goggles and windshield repair. I crank these out, get my $12 in Paypal and say goodbye to my stories. There are no bylines on these. I do imagine, though, that they are flooding the Internet right now, adding to the impossible amount of junk floating around in cyberspace.

I bring this up not so you readers will pity me. I’m fortunate, I know, that I still have a full-time writing job at publishing company. The economy has played havoc with the freelance writing I do on the side to help support my family, but my full-time employer, the one who doles out the health insurance, hasn’t kicked me to the curb yet.

I am interested, though, in knowing how you’ve lowered your own work standards during this recession. Are you now taking on jobs that you never thought you’d have to tackle? Are you working harder for more money, grateful that you have work at all?

Let me know. I have the sinking suspicion that we are becoming a nation that’s now willing to work harder than ever for less pay than we’ve ever considered fair.

Does misery love company? Not when it comes to job losses

I hate hearing from my neighbors or friends about their job struggles.

As a freelance writer, I’m struggling to meet my monthly financial goals. My print-magazine clients are all going out of business or cutting back on their budget for freelance writers. The online sources I’ve replaced them with pay far, far less.

This means I’m working longer hours for less money. I’m taking on more assignments than ever, but making less money than I’ve made in three years. And, yes, it does tick me off.

I know some people subscribe to the old “misery loves company” theory. It goes like this: I’m struggling right now. I’m out of work. It sure makes me feel a bit less cruddy that my neighbor down the street just had his hours cut in half.

For me, though, it doesn’t work. Hearing about other’s job misfortunes just makes me more antsy. It’s tough to make it out there these days. Every time someone else gets fired or has his or her working hours shaved, it’s just one more reminder that this recession isn’t nearly over yet.

Taking on more work. Not taking on more pay

This bad economy is causing employees to make decisions they normally wouldn’t make. I’mseeing more workers, for instance, willing to take on extra assignments without even the hope of some sort of financial bonus.

I’m not criticizing. With the national unemployment rate continuing to rise, it’s natural for workers to do whatever they can to ingratiate themselves with their bosses.

Besides, I’m no position to criticize. I’m taking on additional work at the publishing company where I work. And I’m doing it for free, too.

I’ll soon be the editor of a second monthly magazine at the company. Unfortunately, there will be no additional pay for this work.

Yes, this stinks. And, yes, it does aggravate. But like an increasing number of workers, I can only sigh and accept my fate. I don’t want to be unemployed. Not ever, sure, but certainly not today.

But there is one thing, one slight thing that I’m hanging onto. The economy will recover eventually. The job market will open up one day.

And when it does? Well, I won’t have too many worries about leaving my current employer behind. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Employees remember how they were treated during the bad times. It’s a lesson that employers will soon learn.