Monday, October 28, 2013

I Hate to See October Go

Where do we go next? There's got to be a way out of unemployment.

Halloween is this week, and for the love of all things wise and wonderful, I still haven't found a real, full-time job. Because of this, our candy offerings are going to be a bit shy this year. We might have to send our daughter out trick or treating just so that she can come back with the neighbors' candy to fill our coffers. Re-gifting, you say? Recycling, I retort. Halloween is now green, orange, and black.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, I have just exhausted all my regular unemployment benefits. They sent me four separate letters in four separate envelopes, all with the same postage date, telling me to come to the One-Stop Office today and apply for Tier 1 Emergency Unemployment Compensation (that's EUC to you). I had been under the impression that EUC was not available to Georgians. There had been, I swear, a statement on their website proclaiming that Georgia had chosen not to participate in this funding. Either stress has lowered my reading level or EUC was reinstated. In any event, it's good through December. If I qualify.

One of the requirements to maintain these benefits is to "make a more diligent job search," as well as to prove what I've done to get hired in the last week. They want "tangible evidence" that I've tried to get a job. So I went back to several websites through which I have applied, plus some email records, and printed out all the "tangible evidence" I could find. While it might make them feel better, it actually made me feel worse. shows that I've applied to 58 jobs since getting canned in May. Ziprecruiter shows only 18. Northside Hospital doesn't link you to all the jobs you've applied for, but they did send me email confirmation of the 10 jobs I applied for on October 21. Children's Hospital shows three jobs, Kennesaw State University, 12. The grandaddy of them all, though, is Gwinnett County Public Schools. They did keep a list of all the jobs I applied for -- and I mean all of them -- and that print-out was 16 pages long. Sixteen pages of jobs for which I wasn't hired, only one of which even landed an interview. Sixteen pages of rejection.

If I had to guess (and I do), I'd say I've applied for about 250 jobs in that school district. I've applied for almost that many in my former school district, and will continue to do so until SOMEONE out there is willing to give me a chance. At something. At almost anything at this point.

The numbers above don't include applications for which I lost "tangible evidence." The day I put out 80 business cards in car windows at a local tech school to drum up some editing work. The mail-out to 15 businesses in a local business park. The resumes delivered in person. The 911 application which led to a three-hour test, and ended when I failed the section on dispatching. The phone calls where I literally begged for work. So many I can't even remember them all.

A more diligent job search? Not possible.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Workin' at the Car Wash Yet?

September 20th came and went with virtually no mention of the August 2013 unemployment figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. For those of you who still don't know, here is what they found out:

Both the number of unemployed persons, at 11.3 million, and the
unemployment rate, at 7.3 percent, changed little in August.

A careful reading of the summary also revealed this unreported tidbit:

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised
from +188,000 to +172,000, and the change for July was revised from
+162,000 to +104,000. With these revisions, employment gains in June
and July combined were 74,000 less than previously reported.

Apparently none of this was newsworthy, because not one major television network covered it. I watched with baited breath, hoping against hope that the dismal unemployment picture would be spotlighted. People need to be aware that there are 11.3 million Americans who still don't have jobs despite trying. There are nearly 900,000 more "discouraged workers" who have simply given up hope of ever finding work again. Nine-hundred thousand. That's close to another million people not being counted as unemployed.

The Employment Situation for September that was scheduled for release October 4 didn't occur due to the government shutdown. Don't even get me started. Those poor federal employees currently furloughed can look forward to back pay once the government grinds to a start again. I'm not without sympathy for their situation, but I know state employees who have faced annual furloughs of anywhere from two to eight days for as many as seven years now, and they will NEVER be reimbursed. Cobb County, Georgia educators took a 2% across-the-board pay cut several years ago. That money isn't ever coming back, either. And then there are those of us among the 11.3 million jobless, who don't see any end in sight.

The Deeper Meaning of Unemployment (and really, employment)

Lately I've been thinking about applying for a job at a new restaurant. It's a few miles up the road from me, not open yet, in a different county (meaning less chance of running into people I know). I'm beginning to see a string of jobs ahead of me that all involve some sort of silly uniform, like Trish in the Disney show Austin & Ally. Maybe it's not humiliating to take pay for wearing a rubber cheese wedge on your head, or to dress up as Wonder Woman and stand on a boulevard advertising a Halloween costume sale. There is freedom in punching a time clock, doing unskilled labor, punching out and going home. You are less likely to get sued, to get yelled at by a boss, or to have to face the judgment of a complex evaluation.

 The question is, when do we make this backward leap out of professionalism? Most of us have mortgaged ourselves around a higher salary and will have a hard time letting go of the dignified lifestyle we earned by reaching middle age. We were salaried people! We got paid not to work on national holidays! We had ID badges and office keys and mail boxes. What's going to happen to us now? Please tell me I'm not going to have to settle for minimum wage and run into my old boss driving a van shaped like a giant hot dog. 

I'm afraid, though, that reality bites. As our unemployment insurance runs out, so goes our pride. One kid needs braces, another has college looming. Some of us simply can't afford to fall victim to discouragement and give up the search. How long does one hold out for a "real job" before settling for work at The Yarn Barn? And will this be the start of something small? Is there ever going to be a time for hope again?