Posts tagged with: unemployment

Dismal economic news as we travel across the Midwest

I returned home from my vacation today. I had the pleasure of spending 10 hours in the car with a 2-year-old, driving through the hills of Missouri and back to Chicago.

You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a 2-year-old screech in your ear for most of a day.

We spent our vacation in Branson, Mo. If you don’t know Branson, think of Las Vegas. Only for senior citizens. While Vegas has casinos, Branson’s main drags are choked with country music and comedy shows. The town has Yakov Smirnov. Really. Tony Orlando, too, and one of the guys from Paul Revere & the Raiders.

It’s also a town where everyone has their fingers in your wallet. Case in point: We went to a restaurant that specializes in tosed rolls. This means that every 15 minutes or so, a guy comes out from the kitchen and throws dinner rolls at people. It’s a cute gimmick, and our 10-year-old loved it, though he missed about four rolls that ended up on the floor. (Seems like a terrible waste of food, actually.)

But as soon as our food came out, an employee with a camera hustled over to our table to snap our photo. Yes, this is just what I want hanging in my living room: A picture of me behind a huge plate of fried catfish. Here, I can tell visitors, is the reason why I’m a bit paunchy in my middle age.

Of course, our shutterbug wanted to sell us the photo for $20. I’d only pay that if they snapped a shot right as I was chomping into a big buttered roll. So we passed.

My wallet was still sobbing as we drove across Missouri. The radio reports made it hurt even more, especially a top-notch report from National Public Radio. The show focused on housing foreclosures. Seems it’s not just the greedy or the poor who are losing their homes. Solid, middle-class, bill-paying homeowners are falling victim to foreclosure, too. The reason? They’re either losing their jobs or seeing their take-home income plummet.

The NPR segment highlighted the owner of a small restaurant who’s struggling to make his mortgage payments for the first time in his life because people aren’t eating out as much. He’s taking home about $1,000 a month less in income. That’s had a big impact.

I always tell people that the housing industry isn’t going to truly bounce back until unemployment stops rising. The NPR report offers further proof of this.

Better get used to those high unemployment rates

Tired of seeing unemployment linger near 10 percent? Well, you better get used to it. According to a growing number of economists, the country won’t see normal unemployment levels again until sometime around 2014.

According to an Associated Press story, many economists think it won’t be until then that we’ll see unemployment drop back to levels of about 5 percent. Yes, that means it’s going to be awfully tough to find a job for the next five years or so.

This is more than just a bit depressing. It makes me think, though, that we’ll see a growing number of people begin their own businesses. If you can’t find a job working for someone else, why not start your own business? Sure, the odds are good that it will eventually fail. But the odds aren’t so great that you’ll keep a job when you’re working for someone else, either, unfortunately.

Obama hopes to revive spirits in suffering Indiana community

You think unemployment is high where you live? The odds are good that it’s even worse in Elkhart, Ind.

That’s because the unemployment rate in this Indiana community is nearing 17 percent. That’s a rather frightening figure.

Pres. Barack Obama stopped at Elkhart yesterday to give a speech about the economy and his hopes that things are turning around. He took the bold step of tying his own fate into the fate of this Midwest community, saying that he expects to look back at the end of his first term in office to see that Elkhart has come back from the brink, according to a story reported by ABC News.

It’s a pretty risky move. You can bet Obama’s political opponents will be happy to throw this prediction back in the president’s face in 2012 should the unemployment rate in Elkhart – or the rest of the country — still be sky-high.

Personally, I think it’s a nice gesture by Obama. It’s nice to have a president who actually seems like he gives a damn about folks who aren’t wealthy. Will Obama’s policies work? Will they reduce unemployment and get the U.S. economy back on track? Who knows? But at least Obama’s trying. It didn’t seem like our last president even did that much.

The stress before vacation

I’m off on vacation at the end of this week. We’re off to Branson, Mo. I don’t like country music. And I know it’s going to be 90 degrees and swampy all week in Missouri. But still, it’ll be nice to get away. And our kids should have a blast.

But there’s a challenge with taking a vacation, isn’t there? Can you do it without working? I know I can’t. I’ll never finish all my due assignments before I take off on Friday morning. That means I’ll be traveling with my laptop. And after the kids fall off to bed, I’ll be tapping away on blog posts and stories.

Friends of mine who work stable office jobs always tell me that they’re more tired after their vacations then they are during them. That’s because the work furiously the week before they leave to get stuff done. Then, when they return, there’s tons of work piled up on their desks, waiting for them.

It’s not easy these days to take a break from work. So many companies are operating on skeleton staffs, which means that vacationing workers have even more jobs looming for them when they return from Magic Kingdoms or Grand Canyons.

But, hey, we all need a vacation anyway. And when you’re gone, try your hardest to at least cut back significantly on the amount of work you do during your family vacation. Remember, your families need you more than your company does. (And if you lose your job, your family will still be there. Your co-workers and bosses certainly won’t.)

Waiting for unemployment to drop? Don’t hold your breath

The economy won’t truly recover from this recession until unemployment finally begins to fall. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week said that unemployment in the United States may not peak until the second half of 2010.

For those of you looking for jobs, that means that the competition for available positions will continue to be extremely tough for the foreseeable future.

There are some good signs about the economy right now: Housing sales are slowly, but steadily, increasing again. The stock market has been solid. New housing starts are up. The economy is no longer shrinking as rapidly as it was earlier this year.

Still, until the nation’s unemployment rate begins shrinking any economic recovery won’t feel much like one. It’s hard to feel good about the economy when you’re out of work, or if you fear that you’ll be out of work at any moment.

And that’s the kind of economy we have now.

More going the self-employed route, just not by choice

Remember when working for yourself was a choice that savvy entrepreneurs made? These days, it’s more of a choice that’s been forced upon people.

A growing number of people who’ve lost their jobs haven’t been able to find new employment. So they’ve started their own businesses.

A recent story in Computerworld highlights the trend of entrepreneurs being formed not out of choice, but out of necessity.

Many people have dreamed of telling their boss to get bent and then going out to form their own successful small business. Problem is, doing this is really difficult. Well, not the telling your boss to get bent part. That’s easy. Starting your own business, though, that’s a real challenge.

It’ll be interesting to see how many of these new self-employed workers remain self-employed once the economy finally turns around and companies begin hiring again. Knowing how much work it takes to run a business, I have the feeling that many of these self-employed entrepreneurs will be happy to go back to work for a company once they get that chance.

Whatever happened to the work-free vacation?

I’m going on vacation with my wife and two sons next week. That’s great, except we’re going to Branson, Mo. It also means that this week has been frantic.

You know the drill: Before vacation starts, you cram in as much work as possible so that you won’t have to do any work on vacation. Then, when you hit the road, you still have way too much work left undone. That means you spend a chunk of your vacation tied to your laptop, finishing up the boring work you need vacation to get away from.

At least that’s how it works for me. As a freelance writer, I have deadlines to meet, vacation or not. Unfortunately, I see it happening to a growing numbr of people.

Part of it is that so many of us tend to be workaholics. We think the world will end if we don’t finish a report before we rush off to the airport for some wind-down time with our families. Then there’s today’s horrible economy. Companies are firing so many people, they’re forcing more and more work on their remaining staffers. This work has to get done, vacation time or no vacation time.

The odds are good, then, that I might miss the Andy Williams show while I’m vacationing next week in Branson. As tragedies go, I suppose that one doesn’t rank so high.

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.

Losing your motivation at work? You’re not alone

We had a meeting at work today. At least the three of us writers left at the publishing company where I work. Earlier in the week, our boss — who’s a salesman — wrote a stringent e-mail message asking us to do more online work.

See, our Web site is a bit crappy. A lot crappy, actually. A paid consultant came in and told us so. The consultant ran down a long, long list of things that needed to be done with the site: redesign it, connect a blog to it, add video, add more content.

As I listened to that list, I knew that my bosses would focus on just one of those things: add content. You see, that’s the only improvement they can get for free, by throwing more work on us writers.

I agree that we need more content on the site. I understand it. But everyone seems to have forgotten that half of our writers were fired. There isn’t a lot of free time left in the day.

I’ll do what my bosses ask of me. But honestly, it probably won’t be my best work. In fact, I know it won’t be my best work.

Like a lot of folks out there, I’ve lost a large chunk of my motivation at work. I’m tired because of the extra duties being placed on me. I’m resentful because I’m not even getting a token raise. And I’m ticked that our sales staff, which has seemingly forgotten how to make cold calls, blames the editorial content of the magazine for their inability to sell any ads.

I’m sure I’m not alone. How many of you are dragging yourself to work every day wishing that it was already 5 p.m.?

Murders, suicides rise along with inflation

Maybe the unemployment rate will finally go down once enough out-of-work people off themselves.

That’s crass, I know. But sometimes you need some gallows humor when facing down an economy that’s still spinning out of control.

There’s some truth behind the dark humor, though. According to a Bloomberg story, both murders and suicides increase as unemployment rises.

This doesn’t exactly rank as the scientific find of the century, I suppose. Few things are as stressful as being out of work, especially in a society in which people tend to define themselves as what they do for a living. It’s no fun saying you’re an out-of-work account executive, is it?

With stress levels so high — and with people struggling to pay their mortgage bills — it’s little surprise, I suppose, that suicides and murders would rise.

The increase isn’t huge, of course. Basically, a 1 percent increase in joblessness results in a 0.8 percent jump in suicide and murder rates, according to a study by Oxford University.