Posts tagged with: unemployment

Sharing the misery of a dismal job market

I remember when getting together with family meant catching up on how far-flung relatives were doing, checking in on what kind of grades college-bound grandsons were getting and finding out just who was vacationing where this year.

Not anymore. Today, my relatives like to talk about the economy and, more specifically, the dismal job market out there.

This isn’t surprising. I traveled with my wife and two sons last weekend to Michigan for Easter. And if there’s one state that’s suffering in today’s economy, it’s Michigan.

My brother-in-law works for a school district. He’s worried about the cuts he’s seeing the district make. My sister-in-law works as a consultant for a big computer company. We all know that consultants are deemed as unneccessary expenses during the worst economies.

And then there’s me. I work in publishing. Magazines are closing all across the country. Newspapers are falling apart. It’s not the best time to be in my field, either.

Still, it was a nice weekend. And the conversation, though heavy on economic woes, did eventually stray to the more pleasant topics: Turns out my nephew is developing into quite a violin player. No that’s news I can use, especially in a grim job market.

Laid off? Maybe it’s time to go back to school

In March alone, U.S. employers cut 663,000 jobs. That’s a lot of laid-off and fired workers.

And finding a new job? That’s a huge challenge today. The nation’s unemployment rate, after all, has shot up to a staggering 8.5 percent.

Maybe this is why many laid-off workers have decided to go back to school rather than test the job market. A story in the USA Today says that a growing number of unemployed workers are heading back to school to learn new careers.

Maybe this isn’t surprising. After all, Pres. Barack Obama’s federal stimulus bill includes $1.7 billion for adult employment servies. This includes training services.

The good news in the USA Today story, is that many colleges and community colleges are now tailoring many of their programs to attract adult students who’ve already held one career.

This is a new working world. Those people who want to navigate it successfully know that they must take sometimes dramatic steps, such as learning a whole new career.

Are workers giving up on the perks?

If you’re fortunate enough to still have a job, you want to do everything in your power to hold onto it. I understand that.

But what are you willing to give up?

How about any hope of a raise? What about the chance to work from home one or more days a week? What about extra pay for taking on extra jobs or duties?

Turns out, a growing number of workers are willing to give up all of these perks to hold onto their jobs.

It’s unfortunate that people are willing to give up so much. But it’s certainly understandable. The nation’s unemployment rate has soared to 8.5 percent. And in many states, the jobless rate is even higher.

Still … I wonder about the long-term impact this willingness of workers to simply give up on their work-life benefits and perks. Once the recession ends — and it will, despite the steady stream of gloomy news and economic reports, end some day — I worry that employers, grown used to employees willing to do more for less, will forget that they once paid their workers to take on extra jobs, or rewarded them for working longer hours.

Have we workers created a new norm at our offices, a norm where we’re expected to work long hours and commit ourselves wholly to our jobs without expecting any perks from our employers?

Economy recovering? Tell that to the 600,000 who lost their jobs last month

More than 660,000 people lost their jobs in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That brings the nation’s unemployment rate to 8.5 percent. It also means that more than 5.1 million people have lost their jobs since the nation’s recession began.

This dismal news comes as other economic indicators seem to be heading into more positive territory: New housing construction recently rose for the first time in months. The stock market has recently begun rising. February home sales came in fairly strong.

But yet, the nation’s employers can’t seem to shake their unfortunate habit of firing their workers.

I’m beginning to wonder if all the layoffs are necessary. I’m beginning to wonder if companies aren’t jumping on the bandwagon. After all, if you want to cut costs by trimming payroll, no one’s going to question you now; Everyone’s doing it.

I’ve harped on this point since I took over this blog last year: Employers don’t really care about their workers. (At least the vast majority of them don’t.) They may say they do. They may talk about their “work family.”

But you better believe: If they can save a buck or two by firing you, they won’t hesitate.

So, we’re relying on Walgreens now?

I’m waiting for the day when a Walgreens store opens up next to an existing Walgreens.

The shops already seem to dot every other block in my neighborhood.

Now, it appears that Walgreens may become an important player in the healthcare world. Scary thought.

According to this story by U.S. News & World Report, the Take Care clinics located in many of the country’s Walgreens will offer free healthcare services — for such ailments as skin conditions, respiratory problems and allergies — to people who are unemployed or uninsured. The offer of free care lasts throughout the year.

There is a catch, though: To be eligible, workers or their family members must have visited a Take Care clinic in the past. So head on over to your Walgreens, tell the doc there you’re coughing and buy a cough drop or something.

This is more than a bit depressing, though, isn’t it? We’re looking at Walgreens here as a savior of sorts in the healthcare world. Walgreens! The same place where you can buy chocolate licorice and Pete the Repeat Parrot.

That health-insurance reform can’t come soon enough.

Even if you’re out of work, it’s OK to have a good time

This weekend boasted wonderful weather in the Chicago area. That’s a nice bonus, considering that snow and ice storms aren’t that unusual for March here.

Everyone was out. Riding their bikes. Walking their babies. Playing catch. Barbecuing. It was a nice weekend.

I have a friend, though, who’s out of work. He’s been looking, and looking hard, for a job for the last three months or so. He always tells me he has a tough time with days like this.

He wants to ride his bike. He wants to listen to Spring Training baseball on his radio and sip a beer on his front porch. This kind of early Spring-like weather calls for it.

But he feels guilty now that he’s out of work. He should be on the computer, he says, scouring the help-wanted ads. He should be searching for flaws in his resume’. He should be working at the job of looking for work.

That’s a tough one. It’s a natural feeling, I suppose. We need our jobs to enjoy the rest of life, unfortunately. But still, you can’t spend every waking moment looking for work. Sometimes a good bike ride is therapy. Sometimes a Spring Training baseball game offers hope.

It’s OK to enjoy life, even if you are facing the incredible stress of trying to find a job. Remember that. Free yourself from your computer for a bit, maybe a couple of hours, maybe an entire afternoon. You need it.

Misery loves company: Laid-off workers take to blogging

When something terrible happens to us, it’s human nature to seek out others who’ve experienced the same woes.

No one wants to feel alone, after all.

This holds true with getting laid-off, too. Fortunately — or, rather, unfortunately — it’s not hard to find someone else who’s been fired after you’ve lost your job.

Just search the Internet. Plenty of unemployed folks are blogging about their struggles to find a new job.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an interesting story about this trend. It also highlighted several interesting blogs run by fired workers. For instance, there’s Tryout for Life and Tales from the Recently Laid Off.

Both are interesting reads. And if you, too, have recently lost your job, check them out. They contain some tips for keeping your sanity while hunting for a new job. They also serve as reminders that you’re far from home. And that, sometimes, is the one thing we all need to understand.

Unemployment not just high here. Others suffering, too

We tend to get a bit isolated here in the United States. We often don’t think of the rest of the world, which is often going through the same problems we are experiencing.

For instance, unemployment. We all know that unemployment levels here in the United States are soaring. Anyone who’s out of work and struggling to find any job will tell you that.

Well, our country is far from alone. According to a report in Bloomberg News, unemployment rates in Europe are on the rise, too. In fact, the uemployment rate in Europe is at a two-year high.

The jobless rate in the European Union is now at 8.2 percent. Europe, the story says, is facing its worst recession since World War II.

This may not make anyone here feel better, but it is important to realize that the United States is not the only country struggling with a weakened economy.

Even people with jobs are surfing to job sites

It’s little surprise that as unemployment soars to new heights, more people are logging onto online job sites.

What is a bit surprising is that many of the people searching these sites already have jobs. Call it the realization that no one’s job, no matter how hard a worker or how skilled, is safe in today’s economy.

According to a story by the Associated Press, a new study by Nielsen Online says that unique visits to job-search and career-development sites jumped 20 percent in January. According to the study, these sites received 49.7 million unique hits in the month, compared with 41.5 million for the same month one year earlier.

According to the study’s authors, even people who are employed are searching the sites.

This makes perfect sense. Employers are letting people go every day. Employees are just taking care of themselves by looking for other opportunities … just in case.

Lost your job? Learn how to keep your health insurance

Losing a job is scary. And the prospect of losing your health insurance because you’re suddenly unemployed is downright terrifying.

Fortunately, there is a resource that the newly unemployed can turn to. The U.S. Labor Department’s Job Loss Resources Web site contains an entire section on how former workers can protect their health coverage and retirement benefits.

This is an issue of growing importance. The majority of U.S. families receive their health insurance through a member’s employer. With unemployment recently reaching 7.6 percent in the United States, more families than ever are facing the frightening prospect of going without health insurance.

Let’s just hope that Pres. Barack Obama wasn’t kidding when he promised to reform the country’s health-insurance system. It’s clear now just how broken it is.