I have read that the two most difficult situations to deal with emotionally are losing a child and losing a job. I, thankfully, haven’t had to experience either so I consider myself extremely fortunate. Unfortunately, many others cannot say the same.
Unemployment has been a hot topic over the last few years. I actually see the words “Economy” and “Unemployment” thrown around in more headlines now than when I was studying Macroeconomic Theory in college. Who knew my degree would become so useful?
I don’t want anyone to take offense to any ideas that are explored in this post. I simply want to create conversation.
Are The Unemployed Employable?
I had “a friend of a friend” approach me recently with career-related questions. Over the last 20 years, she has been through several different careers; but never found herself without a job. That was until recently. Now she finds herself among the 9% of Americans that are seeking employment but can’t find it.
She came to me with the objective of jazzing up her resume and believe me – it needed some jazzing up. Some of us take our knowledge of Microsoft Word for granted. Her computer skills are lacking, just as is her experience. But even with a limited background, I was able to construct a fairly attractive resume. When I was finished, I asked myself: “Would I hire her?”
The answer was no.
Now I realize not everyone that is unemployed fits into the description above. A lot of quality candidates have been let go due to tightened budgets, reorganizations, and the overall “economy.” While it’s very easy to sympathize with such a story, how many characters in this story would you actually hire?
How Many People Are Unemployed?
Here are the employment numbers from February according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Less than a high school diploma: 14.8%
- High school graduates with no college: 9.2%
- Some college or associates degree: 7.5%
- Bachelors degree or higher: 4.3%
Obviously having a college degree and (more importantly) an increased skill-set is advantageous. Reaching a level of education that was once optional is now considered by many to be mandatory.
If you receive 90% on an exam, you are doing fairly well. If you receive 90% satisfaction, you are doing fairly well. But if an economy is able to employ 90%, it’s worrisome. This is because it’s not just a number. It’s a person. Each tick mark has a face. Each tick mark has a name. Each tick mark is a father. Each tick mark is struggling to put food on the table.
How Can We Fix This?
In a perfect Adam Smith-like economy, it would be simple. Those that lost their construction job when the housing market turned sour will now fill the available jobs within the technology sector. The self-employed carpenter would obtain the skills necessary to develop mobile software. It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but it’s possible.
Instead, what I’ve been seeing is lots of waiting; waiting for “things to improve” or “the economy to pick back up.” But what if it doesn’t? How long will we continue to support workers’ skills which are now obsolete? When someone is receiving compensation for doing nothing, he will continue to do nothing. I have no problem supporting someone facing a hardship; but lets make sure they are putting forth the effort to redevelop themselves. An investment in educating this 9% would payoff handsomely, but only if the desire of the 9% is there. Do you think it is?
Readers: Does the 4.3% unemployment figure for college grads really worry you? Do you think the majority of unemployed Americans truly have the desire to learn new skills?