The recession is over, but high unemployment remains

What, no free cookies? What kind of establishment are you running here?

What, no free cookies? What kind of establishment are you running here? I may just have to take my business elsewhere.

The Great Recession is over. At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. The S&P 500 gained 15.2% from April to June for its best quarter since the fourth quarter of 1998. Retail sales rose 2.7% in August. Existing home sales rose 7.2% in July from a year earlier, to a two-year high. Happy days are here again. Uncork the champagne, plate up the caviar and break out the credit cards. The spending party is about to resume? I’ll be at the As Seen On TV store if any employers want to talk to me. There’s a purple snuggie with my name on it, and the Dentist-in-a-Box will save me a little money.

Unfortunately, hiring doesn’t move lockstep with the economy; it historically lags three to six months behind. Some companies wait to see revenues return before bringing on additional staff. Others wait to know exactly what gaps in their depleted workforce need filling the most. National unemployment – currently 9.7% – is forecast to hit 10% by year’s end. There’s one thing I don’t remember from all those economics classes long ago. If consumer spending accounts for the bulk of all spending and consumers are unemployed or scared to spend, how exactly is the economy pulling out of the recession? Anybody care to explain that to me? Uncle MiltyPapa KruggyZeidy Bernanke… anyone?

I’m not even convinced that the job market will be back in any significant way. Worker productivity rose by 6.6% in the second quarter of 2009, the biggest jump since the summer of 2003. Wages remained stagnant, as they have for years. People are doing more work for the same money, and companies are reaping the benefits. Corporate profits are expected to surge; bullish estimates see 12% growth in both 2010 and 2011. That jump in productivity can be viewed as a loss of jobs. Why hire or re-hire someone to perform a task that’s already getting done? Just turn up the heat on the minions. Future innovation may lead to new types of jobs, though no one can say exactly what those jobs will be and to what extent they’ll offset recession job losses.

While things get back to normal (whatever normal will be), I have to deal with the likelihood that my unemployment will continue for some time. There are a few more jobs out there, but companies still receive hundreds of resumes for each position; the ratio of unemployed to openings is 6:1. They interview the best of the best which, given that I haven’t had an interview in a couple months, doesn’t seem to include me. I beg (as well as plead, beseech, entreat and supplicate) to differ, of course. I think I would be an invaluable employee for any company that hired me. So to date, I haven’t been willing to settle for less than I deserve. My previous salary was already on the low end for MBAs with work experience. Compromising seemed unnecessary.

That is about to change. The clock on my unemployment insurance is running down, and the end-of-the-year deadline looms large. This week I began actively seeking jobs that would be a step down. I don’t mean a big, digging in trashcans for recyclables-kind of step. The illegal aliens that roam the Jackson Heights streets with shopping carts collecting cans have that lucrative business locked up. This is a smaller step. I’m now applying for positions beneath my pay grade and skill level, even entry-level if the company is in a strong growth field. I’d be hard-pressed to turn down an offer – any offer – in online marketing, for example. The MBA will likely come off of my resume, at least one version of it. I’ve also started looking for work outside of marketing. Proofreading – one of my fallback skills – is one option. Sales is another, though I’d really prefer it not to be. We’ll see what kind of results I get in the next few weeks. As the time ticks away, I will widen my scope. That’s how desperation works.

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  1. Jim Edwards wrote:

    The number one factor accounting for double-digit increases in the average length of unemployment is the reliance on job boards.

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  2. Jon wrote:

    All so well stated. It is really disheartening to hear all of the “good” news on the economy, but know that the job situation lags. Also, your assessment that some jobs just vaporize for good seems to be true.

    I’m interested in hearing about your broadened search and I hope it yields something that interests you. It could answer, with an n=1 though, the question of whether hiring managers would be interested in hiring someone with similar or more experience than they have.

    I’ll be sad, though, if it means that this blog ends since, I think this blog has been of interest and a comfort for countless readers.

    All the best.

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  3. Dalilama wrote:

    If you are considering sales at this point, have you checked out Aflac for sales jobs? They call me about 10 times every time I update my resume online. And ‘the top earner is making over 6 million a year’, so you wouldn’t have to step down your pay grade too much…

    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Joe wrote:

    your blog disgusts me plain and simple. Settling for less than you deserve? This is a smaller step. I’m now applying for positions beneath my pay grade and skill level, even entry-level if the company is in a strong growth field? Who do you think you are. I have an MBA myself from Sloan, yes MIT Sloan, and it’s laughable to think we are entitled to 200K annually because of a piece of paper. I used to make $400K/yr in NYC at a boutique investment firm, but was laid off a year ago.I was unemployed but settled for $80K annually in Dallas,Tx with an oil and gas firm with room to grow. Your blog is hilarious I think bc it shows your true colors. You’re a snot of an MBA like everyone else, and no you are not entitled to anything…..yes, no job is beneath you Norm.

    Friday, October 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  5. David wrote:

    Those numbers don’t even come close to reflecting true unemployment. I think now its something like 17% although this post is rather old.

    Friday, July 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

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  1. Unemployed blogger called out for his sins | Jobless and Less on Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm

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