Monday, October 25, 2010

60 Minutes on 99ers

To read this post, please see I have moved my blog over to WordPress and all future postings will be on this site.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Half of all laid off workers still can't get work

Here's a startling statistic: According to a new Labor Department survey, half of all Americans laid off from 2007 through 2009 remain out of work by January 2010. That's the lowest percentage since the survey began in 1984. 

You may have also heard that more than 40 percent of the 15 million unemployed have been out of work more than six months. That's also a record high set during the recession.  The new survey shows that most of those employers now require new skills and new job duties for those positions, so even though job openings exist in your old field, you may no longer qualify for them. 

(See .)

One recruiter, Rita Ashley, says that employers are not hiring "older" workers (50 +) because they are inferior and possess substandard skills. (see ). The new survey and recent news suggests otherwise:  employers are requiring existing workers to do more after cutbacks, and they don't want to rehire, despite record profits. For instance, they may require CPAs to do bookeeping and secretarial work, or they may require the public relations specialist to do marketing.  Tech companies are now combining business analyst and system analyst positions into one job.

That's why American workers today are doing two, three or more jobs and working longer hours, but still afraid they will get laid off.  Employers are squeezing more from their staffs to do more with less.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Our economy has seen the largest sustained job loss since the 1930s
Why do reporters sound more like economists these days?  I just read a story in the Associated Press about how “applications for unemployment benefits fell last week for the fourth time in five weeks, a sign that layoffs are declining.”

Huh?  While this may be positive news for economists and Wall Street, it’s not good news for the average worker or the unemployed.  While the AP reporter, Christopher Rugaber, is correct that initial claims for jobless are the lowest level since July, he deceives you because he, like so many other reporters, frames the story from the viewpoint of Labor officials and economists.

A more accurate headline would read:  “Nearly 24,000 people are losing their jobs every week…no end in sight to job loss.”  That’s 96,000 people who lost their jobs in one month (September)!  More than 16 millions are now out of work through no fault of their own, and yet we read stories about these “positive developments” about jobs being shed “at a lower rate.”

It’s hard to make sense of incongruous headlines during the same week: “Job openings increase for second month” (10/7) and “Four straight months of job loss” (10/8).  What is going on here? 
What is going on is that some reporters are snookered into looking at new applications for unemployment claims as “a sign that layoffs are declining,” as Rugaber wrote. 

September’s unemployment report is not good news: Not only did the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent, but two independent surveys showed private sector employers cut 39,000 jobs that month. Another report indicated that employers are planning for more job cuts.  And both state and federal government is slashing more jobs than it has in nearly 28 years. Overall, the economy has lost more jobs for the longest period of time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It’s worse if you count the number of people who are underemployed or who have quit looking.  If you use the broader measure of unemployment, we have an unemployment rate of more than 17 percent (according to the 10/8/2010 Wall Street Journal). Employment is falling in all sectors of our economy, including the private sector and at large, medium and small businesses, with even large businesses (over 500 workers) losing 11,000 jobs in September. And that doesn’t include government jobs, with more states and municipalities laying off teachers, firefighters, and even librarians.  We are losing jobs every month since the recession began in late 2007, yet journalists tell us what economists and government officials want us to believe. 

For more real numbers that don’t fudge, see, a great site full of job search resources.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Job Hunting Blues: New York Times to older workers: bad luck

Job Hunting Blues: New York Times to older workers: bad luck: "NEW YORK TIMES TO UNEMPLOYED OVER 50: IT’S YOUR OBSOLETE SKILLSAccording to the New York Times, the main cause of long-term unemployment amo..."

New York Times to older workers: bad luck

According to the New York Times, the main cause of long-term unemployment among the over 50 crowd can be attributed to two things:  out-of-date job skills and bad luck (see “For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again,” in the September 19 edition of the New York Times, at ).
In her stark assessment of unemployed workers over 50, NYT reporter Motoko Rich does recognize that many of these “older” workers are college-educated, but writes that they have “rusty” job skills that are not in demand anymore.  “Many of these older people may simply age out of the labor force before their luck changes,” she writes.
Now, most economists and labor experts see this group not with empathy, but as a potential “policy problem,” as one Rutgers professor said.  Rich indicates that since many of these older workers do not possess adequate computer and software skills, they are passed by in favor of younger applicants.
Rich does give a sympathetic portrayal of a 57-year-old Seattle woman who lost her job as an auditor four years ago and can’t find full-time work, but she fails to realize that the major problem facing “older” workers is not their job skills, but age discrimination, and a desire by employers to hire younger workers they can pay much less.
For example, my wife is an expert in QuickBooks, used for business accounting, and has more than 15 years’ experience in accounts payables and receivables. Yet she is often passed over by companies seeking less experienced workers who can be paid less. She finally took a part-time accounting job that pays half of what she made before as a comptroller.
My problem is not “rusty” job skills – I keep up with changes in my field daily and work for free for a marketing publication in hopes of greater exposure to employers. Recently, a recruiter told me that the main obstacle in hiring me for a marketing position was my copious, broad experience – the company might see me as “overqualified” for a marketing director role that required no management of staff (though I managed only a staff of two for three years and don't want another position that supervises employees). The recruiter hinted that the employer might think I'll jump ship once the economy and labor market improves. She suggested I confront that issue directly in my upcoming interview by asking the hiring manager if there were any concerns about my background.  That didn't help -- the hiring manager rushed my interview and was clear she wasn't interested in me as a viable candidate.  Apparently, she had already made up her mind that I "wouldn't be happy in that position" for long (according to the recruiter, who said the person they hired "actually was not as strong a candidate" as I was).  I’ve also applied for jobs that required management of staff, but usually don’t get an interview because of the strong competition. So I'm stuck: I can't land responsible director jobs because of the competition and I can't get manager or coordinator jobs because I'm seen as "overqualified."
What I’d like to see reporters investigate is how many mid-managerial jobs have disappeared and how many college-educated individuals with solid experience in their fields are finding it difficult to find work.  Is it right that employers are hiring less qualified candidates because they don't want to bring in a worker over 50? It’s not just the over 55-crowd, but the 45 to 55-year olds, too, who are finding extremely difficult to find work in their fields. Just how many individuals with college degrees and more than 15 years of experience have been let go in this market?   How many of them are applying for jobs that are perfect matches for their skills and experience, only to be seen as “overqualified” and not hired?  How many newspaper ads like this one below will we continue to see because experienced workers are seen as a liability instead of an asset?

I’m intelligent, Honest and
I have a MASTERS IN FINANCE, wife, 3-month old daughter, and a mortgage!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Employers and hiring courtesy


All the job search experts advise that job hunters exhibit the utmost courtesy in dealing with employers and hiring managers. There are detailed articles about how to be respectful, courteous, and honest in your dealings with employers.  Yet the same advice does not seem to apply to employers. Unfortunately, another victim of this recession is professionalism in the hiring process.
Perhaps the lack of courtesy and respect hiring managers show to job candidates can be attributed to their ability to cherry pick candidates.  They feel they can belittle your experience during interviews and conduct Army-style interrogations to see who stands up the best.  Because they can get top talent for less money, they are empowered with a supercilious attitude during conversations with potential employees.
I’ll give one example. Last year I emailed an ad agency about a public relations job that required management skills. I received an immediate response back from the hiring manager complementing me on my “impressive resume” but with stipulations about the maximum salary.  “Are you still interested in possible further conversation at this salary level?”
I emailed her back that the salary range was not an issue for me, as I was more concerned with job satisfaction and joining her outstanding organization. She emailed me back saying:  “Great. I’ll likely make decisions next week about interviews. I appreciate your honesty and directness. Stay tuned. –Susan.”
A couple weeks went by and I heard nothing, so I emailed her again: “Hopefully you haven’t made a final decision on this position yet. I wanted you to know I am still very interested in helping LKM grow and attract new clients in addition to servicing its existing customers. Salary is not an important consideration for me, as I am more concerned with returning to a creative role where I am managing accounts rather than employees. Please let me know if you need writing samples or a list of references.”
She replied: “I appreciate your message. We’ve had some interesting hours at the agency today. Are you available for a phone chat tomorrow? Let me know what time after 10 a.m.”
I replied with times I was available for a real conversation.  No phone call came. 
Struggling with what to do, a friend suggested I contact her: “I will tell you if it was me, I’d definitely get back to her.   She essentially left you hanging and I think you have every right to tactfully respond and say “just wanted to stay on your radar… and I hope we can chat soon.”
So I emailed her with this note: “Sorry we missed each other last week…just dropping a note to let you know I am still interested in LKM and joining its dynamic creative team!”
Again, silence –for three months.  This time, Susan’s email was much less personal:
            “Greetings! Thank you so much for your interest in the LKM Public Relations Manager position. We have filled this position at this time. The job changed its focus a few times along the way, and I appreciate your patience as the hiring process took much longer than we imagined. You were a viable candidate and offered a strong resume. I would like to keep your resume on file for possible future positions, so please let me know if your contact information changes. We believe the public relations group at LKM will continue to grow, and we are seeing signs that this economy is strengthening, albeit slowly. Thank you for the professionalism you showed in your approach to LKM.”
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about her professionalism.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dear President Obama


Listening to our president address the nation last night stirred different emotions in me. As the morning-after pundits said, the speech was actually about restoring the U.S. economy. President Obama said “our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.”

While it’s difficult to disagree with strengthening our education system, our president seems unaware that a large number of those who lost their jobs during the Great Recession are individuals with advanced degrees. My bachelor’s degree seems worthless to me right now. A college education has not helped me find a job in my career field, even with years of experience and persistent job searching. Marketing and public relations jobs are scarce in my area (although I did see a marketing manager job opening that pays $10 an hour, about $35 an hour less than my previous salary). I know friends with more advanced degrees who are also out-of-work. There are millions more educated Americans waiting tables and bagging groceries because they can’t find a job in their chosen field, despite their education and training. Studies show that job retraining programs have little success in this economy.

Although I wrote this letter to the president a few months ago, I wanted to post it here in this blog, along with the response from the White House.

Dear President Obama:

Last year at this time, I was knocking on doors for you. This year, I am considering knocking on doors to ask for a job.

Three years ago, driven by a desire to secure better education and opportunities for my family, I accepted a new job in a new state to direct the public relations and marketing department at a stable company. My wife gave up a good job to move here. As a director, my job paid well enough to support the family.

Two years later, I was let go in a corporate restructuring move. A published writer with 20 years of experience in communications, I thought I would land a comparable job within three months. It’s been a struggle. Now, my unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire soon. If that happens, I will likely cancel our COBRA health insurance benefits to save money and keep our house, which of course cannot sell in this market.

I am writing this letter not to complain, but to let you know of a growing segment of our society that is staring deep into a chasm of unfamiliar and unchartered territory – real poverty. If we fall off that precipice, there is little to bring us back. So far, we are lucky compared to people like the Vasquez family I read about in Sunday’s Washington Post – an unemployed engineer who keeps his family in a Virginia homeless shelter.

We are determined not to meet that same fate, and have cut back on everything from cable to cell phones. We sold the second car and are juggling trips and appointments between us both. My wife is evaluating part-time work that pays a third of what she was making before (she’s been looking for work for 2 ½ years). So when I receive requests for donations from Organizing for America, understand why I cannot give.

In our constant rejections where businesses tell us they have no openings or put the open position “on hold,” we wonder what happened to the stimulus money designed to create jobs. There are no jobs. I saw an ad in the local newspaper last week from an unemployed man asking for work: “I WANT TO WORK: I’m intelligent, honest and hard-working! I have a Masters in Finance, wife, 3-month old daughter, and a mortgage! Please call.”

Please, when you speak to your economic team remember that there experienced, qualified, well-educated professionals in this economy who are distressed and need help, too.

Thank you for your service to the country and may God bless you and keep you safe.


Here is the response from the White House:

Dear friend:

Thank you for writing me. I have heard from many Americans who are losing their jobs and struggling to pay their bills. Every day, I meet with my economic advisors to make sure we are doing all we can to create good jobs and help Americans support their families and pursue the American dream.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was the first step to spur job growth and ease the pain of unemployment. This measure was designed to save or create millions of jobs here at home in industries such as alternative energy, health care, and construction. By extending and increasing emergency unemployment compensation and increasing access to health insurance, ARRA has provided relief to millions of unemployed Americans and has helped improve our Nation’s economic outlook.

Many Americans, however, are still struggling to find employment and provide for their families, and I am working to promote additional job creation. To assist workers who lost their jobs, I signed into law the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act in November, extending unemployment benefits beyond what exists in ARRA. I also signed into a law an extension of COBRA benefits and partner with Congress to ensure that a safety net remains in place for those who face long-term unemployment.

My Administration is also helping Americans return to work by emphasizing job training in industries that cannot be outsourced. Recently laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits have new opportunities to pursue higher education and job training programs, including access to Pell Grants. To encourage job creation in the United States, I am replacing tax laws that send jobs overseas with new incentives to create them here at home. Available assistance can be found online at: or

Together, we can help more Americans find and keep good jobs and enjoy a healthy standard of living. To locate an employment center near you, select your state at or . To find career resources, you may call 1-877-872-5627 or visit While it may take time to turn our economy around, I am confident that, working together, we will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.


Barack Obama