Posts tagged with: unemployment

If you’re working, you’re in demand. If you’re not? Well …

The news just keeps getting worse for the nation’s unemployed. First, the national unemployment rate hit 9.4 percent in May, and shows no signs of dropping.

Now comes the news, courtesy of a Wall Street Journal story, that those companies who are hiring aren’t always looking at unemployed to fill their positions. No, instead they’re going after workers who already have jobs.

The reasoning goes like this: Those employees who are still working must be top-of-the-line workers, otherwise they’d already be out of a job. So companies that are hiring are frequently trying to poach these workers.

If that’s not enough to make a hard-working, smart unemployed person puke, I don’t know what is. There seem to be absolutely no breaks for today’s unemployed.

Many states are extending jobless benefits

There hasn’t been much good news coming out of the world of work these days. But the New York Times did feature a column that has some hopeful news for the unemployed: Several states are extending their unemployment benefits.

According to the Times story, 21 states have changed their laws to make sure that the unemployed can receive benefits for a longer period of time if their unemployment rates reach 6.5 percent or higher.

The National Employment Law Project estimates that this seemingly simple change can help 1 million workers who are in danger of exhausting their state and federal benefits.

I’m not sure if this qualifies as terrific news. But in today’s weak economy, it might be the best we can hope for.

Interested in working in a struggling field? Go for it

I’m working on a story for a major newspaper’s Jobs section. It’s an interesting one, taking a look at people who are entering certain career fields even though those fields are struggling mightily.

I’ve spoken to real estate agents and mortgage lenders, for instance. Both of these fields are going through tough times today. You can tell by all those houses in your neighborhood that aren’t selling.

It would seem like a bad time to jump into either career. But career counselors say this isn’t necessarily the case. At least the ones I spoke with for my story said that.

Here’s the reason: If you’re passionate about a career, or even if you’re truly interested in it, it makes sense to go after it, no matter how that field is doing at the moment. Take the mortgage loan officer. The mortgage-lending business is gasping right now. But a loan officer who’s truly passionate about the industry, who likes the thrill of working on commission and digging up business, is going to be the one who gets that business.

The loan officer who entered the industry during the housing boom because everyone was making a fortune originating mortgage loans, has probably already fallen into a new line of work.

What’s the lesson here? Do what you really want to do, even if people tell you it’s a dead-end industry.

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.

Back to the land of garage sales and no jobs

This Memorial Day weekend, I traveled back to Southwest Michigan to visit my wife’s parents. It’s always an experience traveling to Michigan: In April, the unemployment rate in Michigan hit 12.9 percent. That was the worst in the nation.

So it’s a bit depressing traveling to Southwest Michigan. The state is in terrible shape, and this region of the state is especially poor these days.

But while the jobs aren’t here, the garage-sale business seems to be thriving.

Driving to my in-laws’ home, I counted more than a dozen garage sales. And at every one, the cars filled the side of the road.

I’ve never understood the allure of garage sales. They’re just a way for people to swap their junk for other people’s junk, right?

But I can sort of understand them in Michigan. There isn’t a lot to look forward to in the state these days. Maybe the chance of finding a hidden gem among CDs from the late ’80s and board games with half their pieces missing is at least one small ray of hope for Michiganders struggling, seemingly in vain, to hold onto their jobs.

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.

Something about this story really made me nervous

These are uncertain times. No one’s job seems to be truly safe.

But sometimes you just want to forget about that fact. Then you grab the morning paper — in my case, the Chicago Tribune — and you read a front-page story that really gives you the willies.

The story describes how quickly a family can fall from the ranks of the middle class to the poor after its primary breadwinner loses a job.

The Tribune story focuses on the Robbins family. When Patrick Robbins loses his job as a sportswear buyer making $110,000 a year, his family quickly goes from not worrying about money to almost suffocating with financial issues.

There’s something gripping about the story. Maybe it’s the fact that the Robbins family didn’t have that 6-month emergency cushion of savings that financial experts always tell us to have on hand. Thing is, I don’t know many families — if any — that have that kind of cushion built up.

Day-to-day life is expensive, isn’t it? Even if you have a good job, the bills pile up.

Maybe that’s what made me so nervous reading the Tribune’s story. The Robbins family could be my family, very easily. I suspect it could be yours, too.

People still getting fired. Just not as many

This is what passes for good news these days: According to the Wall Street Journal, while companies are still laying people off, they’re not laying off as many as they were earlier in the year.

The Journal points to this as a sign that the economy is finally stabilizing. Though, if you are one of the fewer people laid off in the last few weeks, I suppose you’d not agree.

So here’s the “good” news: Non-farm payrolls dropped 539,000 in April, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That’s better than the 699,000 drop in March.

Still, that’s a huge number of jobs lost in April. In fact, U.S. employers have shed 5.7 million jobs since the recession started in December of 2007.

The unemployment rate hit 8.9 percent in April, the highest that number has stood since September of 1983.

That last number is the key. Until uemployment goes down, the economy won’t begin a true recovery.

NY Times: Teaching not a fallback career

It happens during every economic downturn: Workers fired from their corporate jobs get an idea. They decide to become teachers.

Workers see it as a break from the corporate rat race. They see themselves surrounded by motivated fellow teachers and eager students.

Of course, all of this is fantasy. Just ask anyone who actually works as a teacher.

Or, you can check out this story in the New York Times. In it, a panel of educators warns fired employees that teaching should not be considered a fallback career.

Being a teacher requires real commitment. The pay isn’t always great. It can be an extremely frustrating job, one with as much bureacratic red tape as any other.

And, even worse, it’s getting awfully hard to find an open teaching job these days. There just aren’t a lot of openings.

Yes, it’s just one more bit of bubble-bursting in this dismal economy. It’s getting to the point where all of our working world fantasies are disappearing.

Corporations’ new message: Leave your daughters at home!

I never quite understood the point of Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. If I was a daughter or son, the last thing I’d want to do is spend time at either of my parents’ jobs. I saw enough of my parents, thank you, I didn’t need to see them during their working hours, too, thank you.

But the taking your kids to work thing certainly grew in popularity over the years. So what if you can’t get any work done with a bunch of kids hanging around all day? So what if you can’t swear at your clients once you hang up the phone? You’re teaching your kids an important lesson.

What, exactly, is that lesson? Who knows? Maybe it’s that work isn’t any fun. ‘Course, kids already know that lesson. It’s called school.

This year, though, it seems as if the big event is being scaled down a bit. At least that’s how this story in the Chicago Tribune presents it.

Turns out the sour economic times are causing a growing number of companies to skimp on the field trips, goodie bags and special events for the wee ones. Instead, companies are providing kids with a tour of all the empty cubicles in mom and dad’s office.

This is Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day 2009. It’s grim enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see our nation’s children petition for a Leave me at Home Already Day in 2010.