Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Unemployment Diary: Welcome to Anxiety Central

My initial reaction was "Shut up, Michael Bloomberg!"

His offense?  Part of what he said this morning on Morning Joe (transcript 01:09:41):  "You wonder why jobs are going overseas?  There a are a lot unemployed people in America. There are a lot of jobs available. The skill sets don't match."

But it's not just Michael Bloomberg, as Paul Krugman points out:
Who are these wise heads I’m talking about? The most widely quoted figure is Narayana Kocherlakota, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who has attracted a lot of attention by insisting that dealing with high unemployment isn’t a Fed responsibility: “Firms have jobs, but can’t find appropriate workers. The workers want to work, but can’t find appropriate jobs,” he asserts, concluding that “It is hard to see how the Fed can do much to cure this problem.”

Now, the Minneapolis Fed is known for its conservative outlook, and claims that unemployment is mainly structural do tend to come from the right of the political spectrum. But some people on the other side of the aisle say similar things. For example, former President Bill Clinton recently told an interviewer that unemployment remained high because “people don’t have the job skills for the jobs that are open.”
No matter what the Bloombergs and Clintons say, jobs have been outsourced because people in other countries will work for less than what Americans expect to earn for the same job.  Add to that the fact that the countries receiving our outsourced jobs have fewer worker protections and you've got a pretty simple reason for why jobs are leaving the U.S.  There's more profit to be made!

I'm going out on a limb here, but here's my example of why this is just more nonsense promulgated and promoted by those who think that corporations share no blame in our unemployment crisis.

Last week, I applied for a position with a company I once worked for.  The position is one that I could do, have done.  When I worked for this company, I started as a secretary (back when we still used that word).  By the time I left (in good standing), I'd risen to the position of assistant state rep for one of the larger states in the U.S.  During my five years with this company, I consistently received evaluations of Exceeded Standards.  I'm still sorry I left that job for what turned out to be really stupid reasons (another opportunity that turned out to be a nightmare), but I know this organization rehires people.  Or, at least, they used to.

I still haven't heard from them.  While I'll admit that it's been thirteen years since I left quit my last job with them, I think it's fair to say that I still understand the mission of the organization and its basic structures.  My skill set has improved and expanded in the thirteen years since I left.

This should be a cake walk, no?  So what's the problem, Michael Bloomberg?

I've gotta tell you, I've applied for so many jobs, it's ridiculous.  In the old days, half of them would have been slam dunks.  The other half I never would have applied for in the first place because they are entry level or clearly not at the level at which I've worked for the last ten plus years.

And yet my phone does not ring.  I've had exactly one interview since December 2009.  One.

So I ask myself - is it my age?  My old salary level? The simple fact that I'm unemployed?  Am I expecting too much too soon?

You reach a point where you start to wonder if you really did all those things on your resume.  Was I really capable of running an organization once upon a time?  How did I become unemployable?

I guess I should ask the bigger question - just exactly what skill set is it that Americans need?  What's the secret, Misters Bloomberg and Clinton?  Because I haven't changed.  The job descriptions for the jobs to which I'm applying haven't changed.  The salaries seem to have been shaved and the duties expanded, but they are very much all the stuff I've done before.  I can still create an agenda, develop a database, write memos, make phone calls, read contracts, sit in meetings and worry about budgets.

If you're going to indict Americans for this unemployment crisis without questioning the corporations, then you'd better come up with specifics because more of us are slipping over the edge and if November turns out to be the political disaster we've heard it's going to be, the already straining safety nets are likely going to be shredded.

Meanwhile, I set aside the utter freak out about ever finding a job again and try to focus on writing.  Some days I can do it, other days I can't.  Those are the days when the house gets really clean and the cats cower under the bed afraid they'll get swept away in the frenzy.

Okay, I'm done whining.  I know have readers in NYC.  Will one of you go over to the Mayor's office and give him a punch in his nutsack for being such a dope?  Thanks.

Until next time.....


  1. Yuck--sorry to hear this. I know what you mean.

    You know, the other component is that the hiring process has semi-changed. Very rarely do companies acknowledge applicants by phoning them first (the last interviews I got were all results of my phoning these companies to see if they'd gotten my information). Kind of interesting--I guess this just suggests that there are more applicants to positions and perhaps less urgency to fill the spots?

    Anyhow, you will find the right place, and they will be lucky to have you!

  2. What you've said about how and why jobs are leaving the US is absolutely correct. But there's so many dysfunctional elements w/in the US it's as if all we want to be (as a nation) is a consumer society.

    Public education was originally designed to make a literate work force. And, perhaps the opposite is now the case - since there's no need for indigenous workers, then why have competent schools?

    The US traditionally places in the lower ranks compared to other countries when it comes to math and science. That makes it appear we are relying on transplants or other counties to do the tech and science stuff for us.

    And corporations want what they want - and they make no bones about being anti-union, not fond of older workers, etc.

    And we use words, such as "Federal Government" ... but government is is just people .. so I say, "look at who has been elected and then tell me they know what they're doing." Especially since Ronnie Raygun took it upon himself to destroy many of the programs meant to bolster our civilization - such as education.

    There's some disagreement about the actual amount but when a country (the US) spends 50% of the Fed budget on the military it's easy to extrapolate that other Fed programs are going w/out.

    If US citizens can basically be ho-hum about what the Repugs have done since Ronnie's time and what Goldman Sachs did - then, really, is there a reason for hope?

  3. I just think it's weird that in a capitalistic society no one wants to make the connection to the dollar.

    I agree with what you are saying. The only way the "outsourcing" problem can be fixed is to make it cost MORE to do so. I don't know how that can be done but that's the bottom line about all of this. I would like to ask these people who are saying that it is truly about the competency or OUR workforce, "Would you still outsource the job if it were cheaper to hire here in the US?"

    If they really believe it is our competency then they would still outsource. But I would beg to say that NONE of them would.

  4. Ugh. I'm sorry about that. It's very anxiety provoking. It's true about the outsourcing - all about profit margins and cheaper labor.

  5. I cannot think of a single word of comfort. But may I suggest Jonathan Franzen's Freedom? You might at least take pleasure (and diversion) in a compellingly good read and a thinker who seems to have a very clear-eyed view of America.

    p.s. My husband has just been made redundant. I don't know if misery really does love company, but there is certainly plenty of this kind of company around.

  6. Maybe if you lazy bum Americans would listen to your pretzeldent and go back to school and get further edumacated then maybe you, like Mikey, will be rich! See how easy that is, everyone will be sleeping naked in piles of money!

  7. It's never corporate America's fault they don't hire. It's always the fault of lazy, uneducated, under educated, over educated, unionized, non unionized, young, old, middle aged, able bodied, disabled, male, female, and or transgendered workers. Corporate America wants to put you to work, they just don't want you to ask for a paycheck for doing it.

    And don't forget, if you complain about them and their tactics, it's class warfare and you're a Communist for doing it.

  8. What is most sad is that there are a huge number of poor people who agree with this claptrap.

    I'm living it now, too, Babe.

  9. I hope I was clear, I meant Bloomberg's claptrap.

  10. Bloomberg should hire you to rewrite his talking points. He needs you. I am so sorry. I know the right thing will come up. It is the waiting that sucks. :-(

  11. This continual bashing it getting very tiresome. It's difficult to remember a time when the powers-that-be demonized the entire American work force. It used to be that just segments of the population were blamed for the state of things (the welfare queens, the unions, the illegals...). In our recent history, this bashing began with Reagan. He sanctioned the "greed is good" 1980s, and it's been going downhill for the middle class ever since.

    Hard to know how this will all play out. We all see the closed shops, office parks, factories around us. I understand it's a global economy, but what's the incentive to offer jobs in this country if you can pay someone 20 cents/hour overseas?

    I don't rely on government as the answer to everything, but I don't see the employment/ economic situation turning around without some BOLD federal intervention. I thought our President was up for that challenge; sadly there are few signs of that real change I can believe in.....

  12. Based on experience with 20 somethings I know any kind of administrative position seems to be super competitive right now.

    I'm sorry Lisa. It's got to be hard.

  13. Its a disheartening process to be sure. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make someone call you.

    Sounds like we are in the same boat about leaving an organization for "greener" pastures and getting a nightmare.

    I have even had FOUR people at my old organization ask me to apply for jobs and from HR. And they will no longer take an emailed resume, you have to apply online.

    And I just looked at my last review from there - don't even know WHY I had it where it was. It was outstanding.


  14. The whole "structural unemployment" argument is in fact a code for "Americans expect to get paid too much money". During and immediately after the recession of the early Reagan years, when there was a general shift from production to service, this argument reared its ugly head.

    Combined with a generation and a half of breaking unions, or non-enforcement of labor law, as well as tax policy that favors the wealthy, we have a situation in which our economy is fundamentally broken. Fixing it requires the acceptance of a couple things that run counter to accepted wisdom.

    This does nothing to alleviate the anxieties you face. It does, however, show that Bloomberg and Clinton (and others, like the Minneapolis Fed Chair) are only mouthing platitudes that fall in line with their beliefs, facts be damned.

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  16. It's even worse than outsourcing. See what's being done to the Santa Clarita Library.

    More and more it feels like we're living in a hollowed out state.

  17. We should complain and they should hear us pushing back on these issues. We aren't stupid and we do deserve a living wage. It is class warfare, no if's, and's, or but's about it!

  18. Lisa, I don't understand most of it. Some things just baffle me, some jobs are so overpaid and yet those people when a job or manf plant closes down refuse to be paid less, they expect high pay for their labor, I digress, because I begrudge no one a decent salary or quality of life.
    I can't imagine why you would be out of work for so's a crazy nation we live in right now. UGH!

  19. Your points are very well made and absolutely true. This article by Barry Ritzer explains the fundamentals of exactly who is to blame for the financial troubles everywhere. Unfortunately corporations never die naturally - they must be executed.

  20. There's no reason at all for U.S. companies to outsource overseas other than to cut costs and to avoid labor law enforcement, and anyone who says otherwise is telling a big fat lie. What's happening now, though is that Indian wages have steadily increased, so that it will eventually become much less cost-effective to send jobs there. But the other side of that coin, of course, is that American wages have steadily declined, as people have become more willing to accept less. So the jobs will come back, but they won't be the same jobs. And working class people keep voting Republican. It don't make no sense, no how.

    PS--you should call about the job. It might be that the HR person has forgotten about you or didn't get to your resume yet.

  21. Dear Lisa,
    I love you. Thank you for this post, which delivers a reasonable message to those who aren't helping.

    Jenny xo

  22. Lisa, I know first hand the heartbreak of outsourcing. M's job has been outsourced twice. We were lucky he found something else. I'm worried that the recent health situation puts my job in jeopardy If I lose this there is nothing in this town to replace it. We live in frightening times. I've had to re-invent myself so many times sometimes I forget where I started out and what I really want to do with my life. Hang in there and keep writing.

  23. Well, They don't understand as they don't face unemployment like we do. For Bloomberg there is no risk for him.

    I'm the under employed, skilled engineer but over 50 so must employers will not look at the old lady. So those jobs Bloomie talks about, I guess I can clean toilets for $8 an hour but due to my qualifications likely they will not hire knowing I'd leave in a moment for a techie job.

    Yes, they talk the talk but we know it's bullstuff. And they are talented at it too, doing mostly what us peons call lying.

    Hope things look up for you. I live in the Volksrepublic Of MA where jobs are leaving so fast they may lose a congress critter. But hey, lets export more and make it a good thing with incentives.


  24. Eight years ago, I was unemployed and got interviews, an actual job (for 3 weeks), more interviews then finally a job offer. It did take a while, but it happened.

    Your post outlines some of the problems we have with corporations today. More interested in the quick profit vs. trying to build a long term economy local to this country (along with long lasting employee relationships).

    Some companies have started bringing jobs back from being outsourced to being locally hired. It's not enough, but it is a start.

  25. I think I know the association of which you speak, where we both once worked...


And then you say....

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