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Time To Get Hired!Strategies for Your Job Search, Job Transition, and Finding Green Jobs
By Yusuf Wilson
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2010 Yusuf Wilson, MHRM
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Great Recession
Charlie started his work day at his friend's janitorial service cleaning the door handles of an office building with a rag, vigorously shaking out an entrance rug, and pushing a dust mop down a long hallway. Nine months ago he lost his job as the security manager for a Fortune 500 company, where he oversaw a budget of $1.2 million and earned about $70,000 a year. Now, he is grateful for the $12 an hour he makes in what is known in unemployment circles as a "survival job." Charlie shares, "I'm fighting despair, discouragement, and depression every day."
The devastation and despair of the current United States economic downturn is inescapable for many in the U.S. workforce. The "Great Recession" - as many in the media have called it – has been the longest recession on record since World War I, when the Labor Department began keeping records. "This looks like the second Great Depression," states Nobel Laureate economist, Dr. Paul Krugman on the Sunday morning ABC news program, This Week.
The National Bureau of Economic Research* (NBER), says the downturn began in December 2007, and so far has lasted over 24 months. This greatly surpasses the recessions of 1973-1975 and 1981-1982, which both lasted for only 16 months.
* The NBER defines a recession as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months." Among the economic indicators the organization watches are GDP, employment and unemployment, income, sales and industrial output.
This has been a severe recession for many U.S. workers and a financial and emotional depression for those who lost their jobs, homes, and hope. With 15.3 million unemployed workers, most economists are noting that this "Great Recession" has all the hallmarks of being a recession with a "jobless recovery." The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may rise; however, the job hiring market will significantly lag behind the GDP growth.
The four core economic themes that have contributed to making this one of the most devastating recessions in modern history are:
Duration and breadth of the recession Permanent job loss Wealth destruction A hyper-competitive job market
Duration and Breadth of the Recession
John, 41 years old and a father of a five-year-old, worked his way into middle management during his ten-year career at a prominent financial services company in the Phoenix, Arizona area. He made over $100,000 a year and his career was on the rise. Times were good. It all came to a crashing halt in May 2008 when his job was eliminated after another company acquired the firm for which he worked.
"No big deal," he thought, "a guy like me with an MBA can get a new job quickly." Seven months later, no jobs were available and he filed for weekly unemployment benefits totaling just $266, in stark contrast to a former weekly paycheck of over $1,900. John laments, "I never envisioned that my job search would take so long, and it's still ongoing."
John is part of the 10 percent of the United States workforce that were unemployed in December of 2009. That number is woefully inadequate to describe the devastating impact of the economic downturn. According to U.S. Labor Department figures, the collateral damage included:
15.3 million unemployed workers 6.1 million people unemployed for 27 weeks or more (35 percent of the total unemployed) 9.3 million individuals are underemployed, working part-time jobs instead of the full-time jobs they desired 8.4 million workers have lost their jobs since the start of the recession 2.5 million unemployed workers have not looked for new jobs in the past four weeks
Over 900,000 discouraged and unemployed people are no longer looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them
Combining the 15.3 million unemployed, 9.3 million underemployed, and the 2.5 million marginally attached to the labor market, you have over 27 million people, either unemployed or underemployed looking for a better tomorrow.
This destructive economic tsunami was experienced throughout most U.S. business sectors, with three industries in particular experiencing the full wrath of its impact: construction, manufacturing, and financial business services.
Leading economists believe the impetus for the "Great Recession" was the collapse of the U.S. housing bubble; hence, the construction industry was significantly crippled. The U.S. Department of Labor estimated that 1.6 million jobs were lost in the construction business sector from December 2007 to December 2009, shrinking the construction labor force by 21.5 percent. As the crisis crossed over into the financial markets, creating a Wall Street to Main Street credit crunch, close to 1.8 million financial services jobs were eliminated over a 24-month period. However, the largest and widest job loss occurred in the U.S. manufacturing sector, which shed over 2.1 million workers. This reduction continued a steep, decade-long decline of U.S. manufacturing jobs, and greatly contributed to the loss of over 4 million jobs from 1999-2009.
The "Great Recession" disproportionately caused job losses for:
Both educated and less educated workers Older workers African American workers
Educated and less educated workers lost jobs
It's not easy going to a job interview when the first item listed in your "experience" column is a name synonymous with financial disaster. "One of the things I've discovered is that having Lehman on your résumé is not a good thing," says Anthony with a slight smile.
Anthony, who worked as a Lehman VP in Capital Markets, was laid off in January 2008, eight months before the company's collapse. But that doesn't matter much to people who see the résumé and ask, only somewhat jokingly, whether he caused the downfall of the free world.
Anthony loved his work. He has an MBA from New York University and more than two decades of expertise in revenue and cost management for banks. But embattled banks are consolidating and laying off tens of thousands of workers. "There's not much hiring," he says, "but I think companies are being penny wise and pound foolish."
So for the past twelve months, Anthony, who is single, has spent a great deal of time in his Manhattan apartment working out and watching old movies, like Casablanca.
Even having an MBA doesn't shelter American workers from the ill effects of the wide and deep waves of the "Great Recession." Anthony's story exemplifies this and, unfortunately, he is not alone. Government statistics show that among people with bachelor's degrees or higher, unemployment was at 5 percent at the end of December 2009. This is a discouraging 75 percent increase from the 3 percent rate in December 2007.
The unemployment rate for a high school graduate with no college degree was 10.5 percent and a staggering 15.3 percent for a person without a high school diploma or GED, an alarming percentage that is three times that of the unemployment rate of a worker possessing a bachelor's degree.
"This recession has hit every group," says Heather Boushey, an economist with the Center for American Progress in Washington. "But the increase in the unemployment rate among folks at the lower end of the educational scale is pretty striking."
Older workers are finding it harder to get a job
AARP, an advocacy group for Americans 50 years and older, reported in its September 2009 AARP Bulletin Today that older workers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete against their younger counterparts. Nearly 1.85 million people, ages 55 and older, were out of work last month. The jobless rate for that group rose to 6.4 percent. That topped the highest rate ever recorded—6.3 percent in September 1949—since the government began publishing figures for that age group in 1948. Workers ages 45 and older are staying unemployed longer, approximately 22 weeks compared to 16 weeks for younger workers. Although many of the so-called "Baby Boomers" (born 1946-1964) are now in the prime of their careers, they still have to confront age bias in this dismal job market.
Rodney came home from a job interview several months ago, sat down in his living room with his suit still on, and wept.
The meeting with the interviewer had only lasted ten minutes. The man didn't even open a folder in front of him to study Rodney's résumé. "It was just jibber-jabber," Rodney says.
Rodney lives in Seattle, Washington, and has little doubt about what happened. He is 62 years old and, as he puts it, "I look 62."
He lost his job as a facilities manager for Starbucks in Kansas City, Kansas, last November, when the company closed hundreds of stores across the country. He had done similar work for other restaurant chains and retail outlets. He landed his first interview within a month, with a retail chain. He was invited back to talk to the Vice President of Operations and to the Director of Operations. He was also invited to meet the company's CEO.
But as Rodney was finishing with the Director of Operations, she asked him if he was retiring soon. Shocked, he answered truthfully that he planned to work at least another ten years. The meeting with the CEO never happened. Rodney said he thinks his interviewer simply did not believe he planned to work at least ten more years.
A month later, he found a job posting that seemed tailored for him: Facilities Manager for a national restaurant chain. He sent in his résumé three days later and got a call for an interview. The company's official said he was in a hurry to fill the position. But Rodney soon learned that this one too had slipped from his grasp.
"That's it. I'm gonna throw in the towel," he said. "I'm done looking. I send out so many resumes, and I don't get responses. Then when I get called in, I'm treated like I'm too old. Why am I doing this?"
So he made an appointment with the local Social Security office to begin claiming benefits. He might try to get some kind of hourly job to help make ends meet. The Social Security checks will not equal even a third of what he used to make. But he is now preparing for semi-retirement.
Rodney is an example of the difficulties older workers have experienced in this economic downturn. Sara Rix, a strategic policy advisor for the Public Policy Institute at AARP says, "The unemployment rate for older adults is lower than the overall jobless rate, but older workers stay out of the work force longer. They're less likely to find work," she explains, "and more likely to drop out of the labor force."
That's part of the reason that more people than ever before have filed for early Social Security benefits between October 2008 and May 2009. The number of people filing for Social Security benefits has increased by 25 percent from the same period a year ago.
African Americans workers were disproportionately impacted by the recession
The "Great Recession" has disproportionately impacted African American workers, and especially African American males.
According to the U.S. Labor Department statistics, as the national unemployment rate rose to over 10 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans was closer to 16 percent and 16.6 percent for black males. For black males ages 19-24 the unemployment rate is an alarming 48 percent. Historically, the unemployment rate for African Americans has always been higher than the national unemployment rate, but since the start of the recession, the overall rate for African Americans has risen by 6 percent since December 2007.
The recession has hit men much harder than women. So far, four out of every five jobs lost have been held by a male worker. Black men lead the unemployment surge; employment experts suggest that this comes as a result of their high employment in vulnerable industries affected by the economic downturn, such as manufacturing and construction.
Greg lives in Towson Corner, Maryland, a middle-class suburb about thirty miles from Washington D.C. He and his wife Sabrina, an administrative assistant at a local hospital who is studying to be a nurse, raised their now-adult son there. They've converted his bedroom into a home office. This office is where Greg conducts his job search.
"I spend time going through a lot of the search agents who have brought information or leads to me," he says, "following up with phone calls, letters and emails."
Greg and his family have cut back on vacations and don't go out much, and like any good inventory manager, he uses a spreadsheet for their grocery shopping.
"We know how to stretch a meal out, and we know how to eat rice and beans and make that last for a couple of days," he says. "So we're doing all the right things I think we need to do to keep things going and keep our costs down."
When Caterpillar Tractor Company started reducing jobs last year, Greg, a contract employee, was let go. Throughout his career, just about every business Greg has worked in has closed, relocated, or downsized. Typically, he's found another job quickly, but not so this time.
"I think I'm marketable, and it would usually be no problem finding some work with a temp agency—enough that would suffice," he says. "Since the beginning of the year, it's been dry."
He says they get by on his unemployment benefits, his wife's part-time salary, and what's left of their savings.
Massive Wealth Destruction
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 778 points on September 29, 2008, the biggest single one-day point decline in Dow Jones history. Financial analysts estimate that on this day, the market lost approximately $1.2 trillion in market value. For stock market investors, 2008 was the worst year since 1930. The Dow Jones average lost 33.8 percent, the Standard and Poor's (S&P) 500 declined 38.5 percent, and Nasdaq lost 40.5 percent. Some market analysts estimated that over $8 trillion was wiped away from the U.S. stock market in 2008 and over $50 trillion evaporated from the global economy from December 2007 to October 2009.
CNN Money.com and U.S. Commerce Department records showed household wealth declined significantly from September 2007 to June 2008. From September 2007 to December 2008, household wealth fell by $8.4 trillion. Included in this total wealth loss was a drop of home equity by $2 trillion. Also, total wealth in pension plans fell by $1.2 trillion during this nine-month period. When you add it all up, over $11 trillion in wealth was lost from September 2007 to December 2008.
Media financial guru, former hedge fund manager, and host of CNBC's Mad Money Jim Cramer puts the 2008 stock market fallout this way: "For the last eighteen months we've lived in excruciating horror, where our homes and then stocks have plummeted in value. Make no mistake, the stock market crashed in the second half of 2008, and this was a crash to rival anything we've seen since the Great Depression. It was the worst year for stocks since 1931. In 2008, Americans lost more than a quarter of their retirement savings in 401(K) and IRA plans, and millions more saw their retirement funds cut in half."
Finally, one stark indicator of the human collateral and devastation of the "Great Recession" was the steady rise of participation rates in the food stamp program leading to December 2009. Since December 2007, more than 7 million people have been added to the food stamp participant roll. The Department of Agriculture reported that a stunning 36 million Americans received food stamps: the highest percentage of Americans receiving food stamps since records started being kept in 1969. The average person receives assistance of approximately $130 per month. "We're seeing people getting food stamps who never thought they'd get them," said Tina Osso, the Director of the Shared Harvest Food Bank in Fairfield, Ohio.
Excerpted from Time To Get Hired! by Yusuf Wilson Copyright © 2010 by Yusuf Wilson, MHRM. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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