“Jobs Are Starting to Come Back” – Maybe in the Heartland, but Here?

I keep hearing that the economy is improving, that jobs are coming back. As much as I'd like to believe this, I don't. Do you?

I don’t care what “they” say: Things are NOT getting better.

A number of things have happened recently that lead me to the conclusion that, despite what the federal government wants us to think, the economy – at least when it comes to jobs – is not improving.

I base this belief on admittedly anecdotal observations, but taken as a whole, my sense is that there’s little light at the end of the tunnel not only for me, but for many millions of my fellow formerly productive U.S. citizens who are still losing jobs or who can’t find new jobs.

For example: Yesterday I heard from a friend of mine who’s had high-level marketing and communications jobs with big New York City corporations for years. His job’s being eliminated now; not two or three years ago, but now. That doesn’t sound like change to me.

Or this: I saw a job posted the other day that sounded perfect for me. Even better, I know someone who knows someone who works there. I contacted my friend and she contacted her friend at the company. The response?  Although my friend was told to have me submit my application (which I did), she was warned, “…I have received so many resumés, it will be impossible to interview/consider all qualified candidates.” In other words, my application will be a needle in a haystack – as usual. No change there.

As an aside, it’s starting to make me wonder about something. We’re always told to network because having connections is supposed to help you get jobs. But how valuable is it to have connections at the place you’re applying to when, among the scores of other applicants, chances are that many of those people have connections too? Is my connection better than your connection?

Maybe now you shouldn’t apply for a job unless you have multiple connections to that company. Or maybe the swamped employers discount connections entirely because so many people have them. How helpful are they really, at least in this abnormally bad job market? I’m becoming somewhat skeptical as to their ability to make much difference.

Another reason I doubt that the job market is improving is the fact that I’ve been receiving more nibbles lately about temporary or contract or part-time work.  Employers do this when they don’t want to risk the expense of a full-time hire or are so uncertain about the future that they aren’t committing to additional full-time employees. Again, no change.

You might say that these are only one person’s experiences and that’s true; but I’m hearing these same kinds of stories from lots of other people, both employed and unemployed. I do not hear anyone saying, as I heard Vice President Biden say today in a speech in Ohio:

There are signs of life and hope in the heartland. Jobs are starting to come back…the kind of jobs you can build a middle-class family on. They're manufacturing jobs, decent paying jobs so you can live in a safe neighborhood, own your home, not rent your home. If the kid wants to, be able to send your kid to college, or send 'em to trade school.

This sounds great, and the March 2012 unemployment rate in Ohio was 7.5 percent; much better than here in New Jersey, where the unemployment rate has been stuck at 9 percent or above for the past 12 months.   

I’m not feeling the hope, and I’m not seeing it either. How about you? Do you think the job situation is improving in the Garden State?  Let me know.

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Don May 22, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Some companies that have not hired in a long time are hiring. And they often can't find the people with the skills they want. Believe it or not, that is true. There is definitely a mismatch between many new jobs and workers skills. If they can find someone who is a good match, they pay them very well. Because if they don't they will bail. In the last few months I have seen a lot of people that I know who have been working for themselves for years and doing very poorly, getting hired, or getting m freelance work. But its never going to be the 20th century again. I think that in 20 years, a great many businesses will hum along with hardly *any* people. I think this century will be a very difficult one for that reason, and its completely unavoidable. We have to embrace that future. Look at the bright side, if we survive it, if we come out on the other side of this challenge, its a very bright future. People will be living a lot longer and we will have a lot to do in all that extra time. There have been huge decreases in birth rates in other industrialized countries. That would be true here too if it wasn't for immigration. There won't be as many workers, a fraction of today. But they will be very highly skilled and their jobs won't be like a job, they will be like school, or research. People will be more mobile, families will span multiple continents. Quality of life could increase a lot
Don May 22, 2012 at 07:05 AM
People who can learn a new skill in a few weeks, people who can wear many hats, will always be able to get work. Even older workers. The US workers health insurance system is designed to keep young people off the streets at the expense of older workers. Of course we are the poster child for healthcare unaffordability and injustices, but its also designed to keep politicians insulated from responsibilities that the politicians everywhere else have. In exchange for ERISA,- free money- the politicians get plausible deniability of all responsibility for the mess. Health insurance cost gives US companies a reason to lay American workers off at 40 or 50. They consider insurance costs as part of a workers salary. Thats where the raises of the last four decades have gone, down the ever widening insurance black hole. Its a bad deal for all of us. When workers are happier and less stressed, they remember more. They work longer and live much longer. That is very important for staying employable. ERISA gives the health insurance companies free money. Employers and workers must buy crippled insurance that is intentionally, criminally inadequate: 'prevent care'. Often patients in the US now only discover this when they are terminally ill, because they were never diagnosed until its too late. Often, people die decades before they would otherwise, and the taxpayer ends up picking up the tab ANYWAY. But its far more expensive that way. A stitch in time saves nine.
Don May 22, 2012 at 07:26 AM
I see the workplace of 2025 as being mostly automated. The jobs that exist will be very high level, and they will require a level and breadth of knowledge of people that is not so common in many workplaces today. A new technology emerges, is highly profitable for several years but is inevitably rapidly commodified and obsolescence then often overtakes entire industries. A new game changing approach, technology or product often changes the landscape of a market in two or three years. Virtually overnight. Obviously, students in vocational schools often are taught the old way, which focuses on tools or skills, and those skills are often obsolete before they are even finished learning them. Instead, they need to learn enough to be literate in basic technologies that give them a solid foundation for further learning, basically, teach them the shape of the landscape, how to learn. so they can adapt. As the average job might be for five years or even less. I think literacy in embedded systems, databases, computer science, biotechnology are the keys to employment Kids need to understand the importance of doing original work in an area, not just doing problems from a book they will forget soon after. The schools can teach math and physics in a way kids remember by solving exciting, multidisciplinary problems with technology.
Don May 22, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Fran "In other words, my application will be a needle in a haystack – as usual. No change there" What do you suggest to change this? Another Black Death? (which incidentally, did increase wages, spelling the death of feudalism) Wages are driven by supply and demand, period. During the postwar era, the rest of the industrialized world was rubble and the microprocessor was yet to be born, so for at least two decades, US workers were king of the hill. People, the cheapest supercomputers, were scarce, and also many were in relative terms, better educated than now (thanks to the GI bill.) Now even the military is going automated. We simply cannot expect full employment. We should do what we can to encourage those who can afford to to retire early. We could go to a 32 hour week also. That seems like a no-brainer to me. Study after study shows that people get more done during the week when they have high quality downtime. All of Europe takes a month off in the summer. Literally. Here, we don't have a single mandatory national holiday. Even China shuts down for at least a week for New Years and May Day. Why not pay people with good proposals to learn things they are interested in and then develop new products with that knowledge? We spend SO much on the military, we are impoverishing our country. Who would attack us, and why-to get our problems? No thank you.
Fran Hopkins May 22, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I don't want another "Black Death," but I don't think we have to accept that today's high unemployment represents the "new normal." I believe that the high unemployment rate is the result of policies in Washington, D.C. that are paralyzing economic growth.


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