Nov 9, 2009

The recession is really still on?

Even knowing that we're going through a pretty massive recession, it's still hard to believe that a year later, things still haven't bounced back. I found a post from a friend from October of last year discussing the difficulties the recession has presented, particularly to young newly-graduated women. I did a double take at the "2008" date.

Has it really been that long? Good grief. Almost my entire professional experience has been framed by a recession, by the resulting professional stagnation. I have watched as coworkers have been laid off, as an increasing number of jobs that previously would have gone to my team have been funneled off to a new team in Malaysia that works for a fraction of the price that we do. I occasionally dip my toe into the job market, seeing what my city has to offer. (Not much.)

I've spent well over a year being afraid of losing my job. I've spent a year what-if'ing what will happen if Kellen doesn't manage to find a job shortly after he graduates. And even more worried what-if'ing over what we'll do if I lose my job, too.

You read things like this, which highlight the abysmal statistics of getting hired in this economy:

Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, job openings declined from 4.4 million to 2.4 million and the number of officially unemployed persons grew from 7.5 million to 15.7 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If the 15.7 million officially unemployed workers were to apply for those 2.4 million jobs, the chance of any one of them finding a job are about 15 percent, or roughly the same odds as being accepted to the University of Pennsylvania.

The official figure only counts workers as unemployed if they have searched for a job within the past four weeks. But, does it make sense to exclude people who have not looked for work in the past month? Probably not, given that statistics show workers are trying harder than ever to find a job and only give up looking after prolonged periods of unemployment.

The average duration of official unemployment -- which, by definition, requires that people be actively searching for a job -- has increased to 26.9 weeks, or just over a half a year. But after many months of unsuccessful job hunting, some people do give up hope. And after four weeks of not looking for a job, they are dropped from official unemployment. It is primarily for this reason that since May, the official labor force has shrunk by 1.1 million people.

The exclusion of these so-called "discouraged" workers from statistics means that the official number of unemployed severely understates the weakness in the labor market. If you include these workers, the unemployment rate would rise to 13 percent, or 21.3 million. If these workers were to apply for the 2.4 million jobs available, the odds of securing a job would be 11.2 percent, or roughly the same as getting into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It gets worse. Another group excluded from the official unemployment report is the growing number of part-time workers who would prefer to have a full-time job. These workers are forced into part-time jobs or are forced to take part-time hours because no full-time work is available. During the current recession, workers who are "part time for economic reasons" have grown from 4.6 million to 9.3million.

Adding part-time workers to the number of officially unemployed and the discouraged workers, as labor market expert Leo Hindery, Jr., has observed, results in a rise in the real unemployment rate to 19.2 percent, or 30.6 million people. The odds of any one of these 30 million securing one of the 2.4 million full-time jobs available is 8 percent, the same as the admissions rate of the Ivy League gold standard, Harvard University.

Then you have articles like this, which say things like:

But the economy has shed well over 7 million jobs in this recession, and economist Lakshman Achuthan tells Mason the hardest hit is manufacturing. "Even if GDP grows at 10 percent, you're not getting those jobs back. It's a structural permanent change," he said.


October was the 22nd straight month the U.S. economy has shed jobs, the longest on records dating back 70 years.

These numbers go flying across my dashboard over on Tumblr, a social network/blogging platform inhabited in large part by 20-something professionals (and an ever-growing number of grad students), almost daily.

I'm so tired of the recession. Thinking about it makes me physically weary. And I worry that it will never really end. That much of the job loss is permanent. That much of what is going on is the inevitable collapse after decades of poor business and political decisions which have allowed the jobs to be utterly drained from our economy.

I have two college degrees, special training in a tech field, and supposedly all of the things going for me (in terms of work ethic, ambition, intelligence, professionalism, etc.) that a young person should, and even I feel like I have failed to gain traction in the so-called real world. What must this be like for everyone else?

1 comment:

  1. Portland unemployment level Heat Map and stats for September 2009: