1. There Are Always Jobs Out There
The job-market is a mess, right now. People have lost jobs they thought would go on forever. Whole households have been plunged into financial ruin. Hunting for a job is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The future, to many people, looks bleak. Welcome to “Normal.”
Yes, this is what always happens after a Recession. It’s just been worse, this time, because this has been a bad Recession. Really really bad. There’s still a tremendous amount of misery, out there. When you talk to those who are unemployed, as I do constantly, you feel the kind of pain that strikes at the very heart of why people want to live. Or not live. So many souls are living quiet lives of desperation. Their job is gone. Their home is gone. Their dreams are gone. Their savings are gone. Their plans for retirement are gone. Their hope is gone. And they feel heartbroken, abandoned, forgotten. To see what disastrous events in the economy, like a Recession, or disastrous events in nature, like the Gulf oil spill, have done to so many people’s lives, is to weep. You hear discouragement and despair, on every side:
“There are no jobs out there, I know, I looked. I went on the Internet every single day. After two months, I gave up.”
“I’m hearing all the experts say we are entering into a jobless recovery. They say some people are just going to have to get used to being permanently unemployed. I think they’re right. I can see a grim future ahead for me. It is the death of all my dreams; all I’ll have after this is a series of regrets.”
“I heard there are six people out of work for every vacancy that appears; those odds mean my situation is hopeless.”
“With the labor market so tough for the foreseeable future, even if I find a job, I imagine it will have to be one that I settle for; there is no hope of my ever finding work that I could feel passionate about, or find anything remotely approaching a ‘dream job.’”
“I always thought you were supposed to start your job-hunt by learning all you can about the job-market: what the hot jobs are, what vacancies are posted by employers on the Internet, and so on. I was taught that you have to take the job-market as the given, and then try to depict yourself as one who matches that given. But with this awful recession we are just coming out of, this doesn’t seem to work at all. Employers simply aren’t posting any vacancies. Hot jobs are nonexistent. I’m thoroughly bummed out.”
These, and similar sentiments, circulate in the media in the air, and in the blogosphere, 24/7.
All we want, now, is relief. We want the government to do something. And create jobs. Don’t just sit there; do something! And we will sweep out of power any government that does not make Jobs their number one priority, and come to our rescue. How Jobs Get Created
The unfortunate news is that Recessions--not this bad, but bad enough--come around regularly in history, and recovery from them always works the same way: it is not the government, or employers who pull us out of our tailspin. No, it is the consumer who re-creates the job-market (and therefore “jobs”) after a Recession ends; but right now--after getting all banged up from what we have just been through--we consumers are basically operating in Cautious mode. That’s normal. If we have any money we consumers are first using it for other things than consuming, as is our custom whenever we come out of a Recession.
We are using our income first of all to pay off any debt we have; and then, to cut down our addiction to credit cards; and then if any money is left over we are using it to build up a safety net for ourselves, setting aside more into our savings. And only then, do we--will we--get back to spending at the levels we did before the Recession. (And thus create jobs and restore the job-market to the size it used to be, or more.) It’s going to take a while. Maybe a long while. Meanwhile, the job-market remains weakened, and good news comes only in fits and starts.
Of course, to know that all of this is “normal” after any Recession, is small comfort indeed to those of us who have been set adrift on the Sea of Despair. We’ve been trying all the things that used to work, except they don’t anymore. We used to troll the Internet to find interesting vacancies; now, no interesting vacancies are there (to our eyes, anyway). We used to look for employers who were hiring people with our job-title; now, our job-title seems to have vanished. We used to send out our resume by the bushels, and get interested responses; now, there is just the sound of silence. And we used to brush up on our interviewing skills, so as to win the day with a prospective employer; now, no employer even wants to see us.
In all of this, I exaggerate, of course. It isn’t that bad for everybody. But for many of us it is as bleak as I have just described it. For example, some six and a half million of us here in the U.S. have been out of work for twenty-seven weeks or more, as I write. That’s almost half of all the official unemployed, the worst figures since records began to be kept, back in 1948. The Good News
On the other hand, millions of job-hunters have found jobs this year, in spite of everything, as we are going to see. And I want to help you join them. I am writing this to give you hope about your future, and to help you chart a winning path for yourself, out of this mess.
So, let’s begin with a description of what the job-market is really doing, at the moment, not what the media say it is. Let’s begin with the truth that there are always jobs out there. Maybe not exactly the ones you are looking for, maybe not exactly where you would hope they would be, maybe not as easy to find as they were in good times--but they are out there. You have to be convinced of that, before it makes any sense to start looking. So, how do we know this?
Well, to begin with, simple logic will tell you there just have to be job vacancies out there. After all, at least 138 million people in the U.S. do have jobs; and they need (and can pay for) services, products, food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. Not to mention, travel (so long as a volcano doesn’t get in the way), recreation, vacations, hobbies, games, and amusements. Someone’s got to provide these for them. That creates jobs.
In addition, some of those 138 million workers die, retire, move, fall sick, get restless, get fed up and change careers; so there just have to be vacancies opening up, constantly.
Simple logic tells us that.
But to put a floor under that logic, there are continuing studies of the job-market’s actual behavior. And according to the experts, during the decade 1994-2004, in good times or bad, fifteen million jobs disappeared each year in the U.S., but seventeen million new jobs got created, each year.1
But doesn’t all this change during, and after, a Recession? I mean, look at the monthly Unemployment Figure. It’s been dreadful. It adds up to 8.4 million jobs that have disappeared since the Recession began.
Well, I’m glad you mentioned that Figure. It has led to more mischief in people’s understanding of what’s going on, than I can possibly tell you. Part of the problem is its title. Instead of calling it “the unemployment figure” we would be far better off if we called it “The Relative Size of the Employed U.S. Workforce.” Once a month, after the end of each month, the government does something like a “sounding” (think Mississippi riverboat) to measure the size of the employed workforce at the end of that month. They then subtract that figure from the figure at the end of the month before that, and tell you if the employed workforce has shrunk or grown overall that month, and by how much. If the workforce has grown, that means there has been a net number of jobs added that month to the U.S. workforce, and the government will tell you how many. On the other hand, if it’s shrunk, then obviously jobs have vanished that month; and again the government will tell you how many. And that’s the figure these past two or three years that has been causing job-hunters, the media, and the government to wring their hands, or lapse into depression and despair. With good cause, I might add. What Happens During the Month?
But--and this is crucial--it is only a net figure computed once a month, at the end of the month, after all the dust has settled. Ah, and there’s the rub. A lot can happen during the month, in between the “soundings.” And does! To find out exactly what, the government (fortunately for us)
maintains a site for exactly that purpose, which is cutely called “JOLT” (for Job Openings & Labor Turnover), and is to be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at www.bls.gov/jlt.
Now, you’re probably not going to take the trouble to go there, so let me summarize for you what it has reported for the past twelve months (at this writing), and I’ll precede it, for each month, with the monthly “sounding,” traditionally called “The Monthly Unemployment Figure,” but as I mentioned earlier, should be called “The Relative Size of the Employed U.S. Workforce.” Okay, here goes: February 2009
By the end of that month, the overall size of the employed U.S. Workforce had shrunk by 726,000 people, since the end of the previous month. During the month, jobs were lost, jobs were found, but the net change at the end of the month was the figure above.
But as JOLT reported, during that month 4,360,000...
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