Monday, February 8, 2010

Scary Times

This economy scares the hell out of me – but not in the good Las Vegas way.

I am lucky in that I have a job right now, lucky that I’m not still in the same industry I was five years ago (newspapers). Being unemployed – or in my case, in 2005, underemployed, as I worked as a bricklayer, telemarketer, and store shelf stocker – is not fun.

But as I read these stories at CNN Money, I have to think, well, maybe it’s not the economy.

These people – and I really feel for them; I was in the same boat in 2005 – talk about being out of work for a year, or searching for work for a year or more without success. Some of them say they’ve given up looking (at least two of them are in my current field, which means, good for me, two fewer competing for other jobs). But their stories sound the same as the experience I had in 2005: Sending out hundreds of resumes, getting calls back on a handful of jobs, getting interviews for one or two, getting offered zilch.

That situation has not changed between 2005 and 2010. Not one bit. If I were in the same position now as I was in 2005, I’m fairly confident I’d be able to get back into the telemarketing and store stocking jobs I had then – both of those companies still exist locally, both are still hiring. The bricklaying gig would be harder to replicate, with the slowdown in construction and the fact that it was my brother’s business I got in with, and he’s no longer in that business (we both got out of careers in 2005 that have cratered in 2010).

So, if the situation is unchanged – at least from my perspective – between 2005 and 2010, what’s going on? More people are looking for jobs, obviously. But that might be a false statistic – because I have no idea how many people were out there, looking for the same kinds of jobs I was looking for in 2005. The competition then may have been just as fierce as today, it’s just that more people were employed (or underemployed) back then.

The folks quoted on CNN are white collar, just as I am. It’s never been easy to get white-collar jobs. Though I criticized Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickeled and Dimed when I read it at the time, but a lot of it rings true: It’s the employer, not the employee, who has the power, or at least most of it. I really empathize with these folks, because I’ve been in their shoes before. Hopefully, never again.

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