The Real Cost Of Unemployment: Perspective From The Inside

"A falling unemployment rate would seem to be good news for President Barack Obama’s re-election hopes. Dating to 1956, no incumbent president has lost when unemployment fell in the two years leading to an election. On Election Day, unemployment will almost surely be less than it was two years earlier: 9.8 percent in November 2010. But for the past two months, the rate has fallen for the wrong reason: More than 500,000 Americans have stopped looking for jobs and are no longer counted as unemployed. Job growth averaged a healthy 252,000 from December through February. It slowed to an average of 135,000 in March and April."

Personal Reflections: Where to begin on unemployment? The unemployment rate drops a bit for April and as the article below notes, this IS IN REALITY, NOT a good thing. On first glance one would conclude great, more people found work! I wish this was the case but sadly, it is not. Allow me to give my perspective on unemployment from trying to assist those who are out of work. A bit of background first and I will begin with the rate of unemployment. I am not going to barrage you with a lot of statistics, charts or nonsense.

Unemployment rate as reported and reality.

The government has reported the unemployment rate at 8.1 percent. This is based on the
U-3 unemployment measure which DOES NOT take all who out of work, who have completely given up, under employed or those NOT collecting unemployment benefits into consideration. To get a better idea of what I believe is true rate of unemployment, one has to look at the U-5 and U-6 unemployment measures. The U-5 rate stands at 9.5 percent and the U-6 rate is much worse, standing at 17.1 percent. It is obvious why the government uses the U-3 rate but this is far from the truth or the reality that I experience each week at work. Millions of people have completely given up looking for work, are no longer drawing any unemployment benefits and are not counted, are underemployed in a part time job and are “marginally attached workers” — those who are neither working nor looking for work, but say they want a job and have looked for work recently; and people who are employed part-time for economic reasons, meaning they want full-time work but took a part-time schedule instead because that’s all they could find. These are the true representatives of the unemployed in the United States. I converse with many of these individuals every week, their family and their friends. You cannot put on price on the level of devastation that we see each and every day from our poor economy.

I am currently employed, at least until the end of June and perhaps longer, by a State Employment Department. It is a part time position with no benefits and no union membership, for which I am very thankful about. It is a challenging job that I really enjoy despite the politics, budget hassles. I am the administrator for of an assessment program that certifies a job seeker has ready to work experience, skills and knowledge. The program I run used to be managed by a full time position with five assistants. It is now just me and one assistant, two at the most and that is when I can steal another staff member to help out. Our region covers three counties with a combined unemployment rate of over 13.5 percent. It is NOT a requirement for people who are collecting or not collecting unemployment benefits. It is part of a national program that the States must offers as another tool to help people find work. In this region of our state (as in other states), people need every edge they can to find work. Yes, I am a public or state worker; so crucify me if you want to. I do not fit the typical state worker description nor do I align myself with the likes of those who are trying to kick Governor Scott Walker out of office in Wisconsin.

The fact that I am a Constitutional Conservative sets me apart from the majority of state workers. I am fortunate to work in a small, very close and tight field office with a handful of extremely dedicated, hard working people who give all they have to help those who walk through the doors seeking the services that our agency offers. I have watched these excellent co-workers and friends be subjected to some of the nastiest, rude, ungrateful abuse, and foul comments by some of the people they are trying to help every day if not several times a day. Most of the people who come in are honestly trying their best to find work. Then there are those who have been collecting unemployment benefits for over two years and done virtually nothing to try and find work or improve their skills while they are looking. Our agency and our partner agencies offer many outstanding programs to help people and they are all offered at no cost. The amount of baby sitting we are required to do at times is disgusting, and I refuse to do that unless there are extenuating circumstances. I believe in personal responsibility. The system is far from perfect but it is what we have now to work with. It is quite sad to see how far our society has fallen in this area and how it is always the fault of someone else. I have been with this program for two years, from the early days of the pilot program up to the present. This should be enough for you to get the picture.

Most of the individuals (not all) who come in to take this set of assessments or tests are experiencing a very rough time, and many of them have paid a very high price for being out of work or underemployed. This is not just an state specific story. How do I know this? Because I interview and debrief sometimes up to 75 people a week from all over the country who have landed in in our area. Many have been forced to move back here so they can live with their parents or other family. A few have just moved here out of the blue as they heard it is a beautiful area to live. Those of us who have lived here for a few years call it 'Poverty with a view.' The youngest I have worked with is 18 (to take the assessments you must be at least eighteen), the oldest was 78 who had lost everything and was forced to start over, at 78. I have listened to many a story from a husband or wife who's partner had left the other because of being out of work for so long. They left with the kids, homes have been lost and foreclosed on, cars and possessions repossessed, retirement, savings accounts drained, wedding rings that have been on one hand for 45 plus years, pawned to pay the utility bill, buy groceries or fill the gas tank of the car.

Children are used as pawns, weapons or a bargaining chip against the other spouse or partner. I have assisted both women and men who have suffered from physical, mental, extreme financial abuse and collapse. Often times, we are the only or last ones who will listen and try to to help. These are not unusual or isolated cases, not in the economic times we live in today. Our agency shares a building and waiting lobby with two other agencies and one of them is Department of Human Services. There is where the families end up, many of them shattered, with children and parents that will be scarred for life because of what they have been through or witnessed. Child and spousal abuse is up across the country and this is another horrible consequence of the economic times we live in.

Being out of work for any prolonged length of time (the longest time out of work with a person I assisted was four plus years) tears a person up. The damages are both physical and mental. With either one the damage(s) may not show up for months or years. Self worth and confidence take a serious hit and often go out the window. Once this happens it can be nearly impossible to recover. When your self confidence suffers it will show through in every aspect of your life. This is another battle we see many of these individuals fighting and often times it is a fight they are losing. I have worked with people since 1987 in one capacity or another and I have become somewhat of an expert at reading eyes, the face and body language. Many people will not say anything to me and I am the one to ask they are coping, how long have they been out of work, do they need assistance, are they aware of all the services offered. If we see any signs of abuse then we make sure they get help ASAP, especially if there are children involved.

I have often been asked what age group seems to have the most trouble and is the most vulnerable? Those who are 50 years old and older are the ones that are have it the worst. Many in this age group do not have up to date work skills, especially when it comes to computers and the latest technology. They may have been with one company or employer for a very long time, well over twenty five years in some cases, then they are suddenly without a job, without the feeling of being valued and productive. The 78 year old individual I mentioned earlier had been with the same company for over 30 years. I am in this age group and I can tell you from personal experience it is NOT easy looking for work, being out of work. It is not easy for anyone. Those who are over 50 are often starting to have health problems which can be physical, mental or sometimes both. Throw in the loss of a long term stable career and the consequences can be devastating.

Unemployment rate dips in April, but it isn’t necessarily a good sign
By Chistopher S. Rugaber and Paul Wiseman / The Economics Writers : WASHINGTON — U.S. job growth slumped in April for a second straight month. It suggested an economy that is growing steadily but still sluggishly, which could tighten the presidential race. A drop in the unemployment rate wasn’t necessarily a healthy sign for the job market. The rate fell from 8.2 percent in March to 8.1 percent in April. But that was mainly because more people gave up looking for work. People who aren’t looking for jobs aren’t counted as unemployed. The 115,000 jobs added in April were fewer than the 154,000 jobs added in March, a number the government revised up from its earlier estimate of 120,000. It also marked a sharp decline from December through February, when the economy averaged 252,000 jobs per month. The percentage of adults working or looking for work has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years. Many have become discouraged about their prospects. Job creation is the fuel for the nation’s economic growth. When more people have jobs, more consumers have money to spend — and consumer spending drives about 70 of the economy.

Here’s what The Associated Press’ reporters are finding: The long slog back
Job creation has been frustratingly slow since the Great Recession ended. Only 43 percent of the jobs lost have been regained 34 months later. The rebound was only slightly stronger after the previous recession, which ended in November 2001. By September 2004, 54 percent of the jobs lost had been regained. It took five more months before all the jobs were back. The problem this time isn’t that companies haven’t been hiring: They’ve added more than 1 million jobs in the past six months. It’s that the Great Recession killed so many jobs in the first place — 8.3 million. By contrast, the 2001 recession eliminated 1.6 million jobs.

A penny more for your work
For people with jobs who assume they’re not affected by Friday’s report, take notice: The report notes that the average worker’s hourly pay eked out a gain of just one penny in April. Over the past year, average hourly pay has ticked up 1.8 percent to $23.28. Inflation has been roughly 2.7 percent. Which means the average consumer isn’t keeping up with price increases.

Nowhere to hide
Hiring was weak, if it occurred at all, in eight of 10 industry categories the government tracks. Manufacturing, which has been a source of strength, added 16,000 jobs. Education and health services, which tend to be less affected by economic cycles, added 19,000. It was the smallest gain in five months for both categories. Leisure and hospitality, a bellwether for consumer spending, had its tiniest gain — 12,000 jobs — in eight months. Federal, state and local governments cut a combined 15,000 jobs. There were two bright spots: Retailers added 29,300 jobs after cutting jobs the previous two months. And professional and business services added 62,000. Young and unemployed It’s a tough time to be young in America. The unemployment rate in April for workers under 25 was 16.4 percent. That’s nearly 10 percentage points above the rate for those 25 or older. It could be worse. You could live in Europe. In the 17 countries that use the euro, the unemployment rate for young workers is 22.1 percent. Or worse still. In Greece and Spain, two of the countries most damaged by Europe’s debt crisis, one in two workers under 25 is unemployed. Complete article here.

Related reading: Record high number of women now out of work
The awful April jobs report: Is the 'real unemployment rate 11.1%?

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