Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Difference Between a Recession and a Depression

The truism is that when your neighbors lose their jobs, it's a recession: when YOU lose your job, it's a depression.

The last 5 years, however, has kind of skewed that joke.  Which really isn't all that funny when you consider the hell you and your neighbors are going through trying to find solid work.

The normal turn-around on losing a job and finding a new one tended to be less than six months (if you couldn't find anything in six months you were looking in the wrong places).  This prolonged economic downturn, however, saw a turn-around rate averaging a year, maybe more.  I personally knew of fellow unemployed who were struggling to find even part-time employ (no benefits, not enough income) for more than a year.

I personally struggled to find full-time employment for more than 4 years.  Part-time work came and went and was hard to find (and keep): for all of 2011 I had no employment at all.  And I was putting in for five to ten jobs a week.  The simple reason was that there were few jobs being created in the first place... with each new opening getting swarmed with 60 to 150 applicants within two days of the posting.  I once handed my resume to an HR person speaking at the Career Center for a position that my research background fit to a tee that the HR person mentioned just opened the day before... only to have her tell me she'd already gotten 75 applicants for that spot.

So, from where I was sitting - where my family was coping along with me, doing what they could to help out, and all the burdens they've had to bear - this Great Recession felt like a Depression.

This is a very long-winded setup for the good news.  I finally found a full-time job.  They really liked my resume: they really liked me.  I'll be doing what I like: helping people find books and research materials and getting into computer usage.

I would joke - and I have, elsewhere - that our long national nightmare... is over.  Except, well, it's not over.

We're still a nation mired in a jobless economic recovery.  Unemployment may be hovering around 7.9 percent (official number: the unofficial unemployment numbers are always a lot worse... and always more accurate) which is better than the 10 percent and worse that it had been at the deepest part of the 2009 valley, but that's not normal.  Unemployment should ever be around 4 percent for the economy to be chugging along just fine: an unemployment rate of 2 percent is a strong economy.

We need more action from government to spur businesses to use their profits to grow and hire on more people.  We need to stop the wave of cutbacks in the public sector which is hurting that job sector: if our states, counties, and federal government weren't cutting back on their workforce, the unemployment rate would be a full percent less than it is now.  We need a jobs bill.

Meantime, to all my fellow job-seekers.  I may be employed but I stand with you.  Good luck finding work.  Really good luck to you all.

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