Are The Unemployed Employable?

by A Blinkin on March 19, 2012

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?

Written by A Blinkin

A Blinkin

Hunter Kern, aka A. Blinkin, is the blogger behind Funancials. His experience in banking, lending, payments and investments has earned him the title of “Personal Finance Guru.” In addition to helping people with their finances, Hunter enjoys crunchy tacos, spending time with his wife and puppy, and writing in third person.

  • Maria@moneyprinciple

    I believe that most unemployed people want to work; I am not so sure that they realise that it is about competencies and skills; neither am I certain that the people who support (by putting resources in and by educating) undertand the main conundrum of competencies and skill sets.

    I the UK we have a thing called ‘the employability agenda’; it in the main a government policy where they try to bypass labour markets in sending signals as to what skills and competencies make one employable. These set of skills are imposed on universities and we are all working to it. But gueass what? When you look at the list, most skills are so specific that by the time people develop them they are obsolete. Meanwhile, the Govn’t is sticking with those, people believe they needs them and employers want the ‘finished product’ – they no longer accept that they need training programmes for jobs.

    What makes people employable, I believe, are core competencies including styles of thinking, inventiveness, creativity etc. These are neglected by education, policy and employers.

    • Anonymous

      “I believe that most unemployed people want to work” – I have found the opposite. Now I don’t want to make a blanket statement here because I have come across many who have a strong desire to do ANYTHING; BUT I’ve seen far too many that have no desire (primarily because they don’t need a desire if we’re continuing to support them).

  • http://www.modestmoney.com/ Modest Money

    I’m not surprised that the unemployed are mostly waiting for the economy to recover. It is a daunting task to try to update your employment skills or pursue an entirely new career. If they are unemployed, it is tough to justify going back to school to try something different. It is only natural to hold out hope that your skills are not obsolete and someone will be able to hire you soon.

    • Anonymous

      Is it natural though? When what I’m doing isn’t working out or producing the result I want, I change.

      • http://www.modestmoney.com/ Modest Money

        That’s easier to say when not faced with a situation where you are barely just getting by and changing careers might put you in big debt. Plus they would be pessimistic that changing careers would even necessarily result in a job.

  • http://www.dqydj.net/ PK

    …and a fair number of the college grads who are unemployed? Recently graduated. The number understates the true unemployment too, since if people decide to go back to school they aren’t counted as unemployed.

    It does worry me from a macro perspective – a late start on a career means there is an income gap which generally gets carried through the whole career.

    • Anonymous

      It’s definitely understated for the reason you mention above but do you think it’s also overstated as well? If the bread winner of a single-income household is either laid off OR simply receives a paycut, now the significant other is searching for work.

      • http://www.dqydj.net/ PK

        A good point, and to extend it further: how about adult children living at home? For families on the margin, do we think that children are delaying college to assist the family?

        I think that those two factors probably counterbalance it a bit, but I still think that numbers are understated to some degree.

  • http://erinshanendoah.com/dogatemywallet/ shanendoah

    So I am married to one of the long term unemployed who is no longer counted on the rolls of the unemployed. C was laid off May 2009. He worked the census summer 2010, but otherwise, hasn’t worked at all since then. He collected his 99 weeks of unemployment, and when it was up, he went back to school full time. We’ve got the rest of his BS and then grad school to go.
    Hopefully by that time (and with his advanced degree) he’ll be employable. But in those 2 years of unemployment he got 2 interviews. 2. With an AA.

    • Anonymous

      I have so many questions for you; I’m genuinely interested. I’m sending you an email in a few.

      • http://erinshanendoah.com/dogatemywallet/ shanendoah

        ask away. it’s something we’re very open about

  • http://simplefinanceblog.com/ Elizabeth_SimpleFinance

    Love the 90% analogy – it makes a lot of sense! I know plenty of “employable” people who don’t have jobs, and they can’t figure out why. It’s because so many really experienced professionals lost their high-paying jobs and are trickling down the economic ladder, looking for just about anything they can get – and taking jobs once available to others.

  • http://twitter.com/cilburke Thea Burke

    I work for the State. Almost everyone I see is not someone I would employ. The sad thing is they do not plan to be employed, either.

  • http://www.cutbaddebts.com/ Geoff

    My daughter hated her last job so much that one day she handed in her resignation. Unemployment here in the UK is around 8% and finding a job in some areas is quite tough. Glad to say that a few days before she was due to finish her job after working her month’s notice period she got a job offer elsewhere which she’d applied for, without there being any break from work. She was fortunate I have to say.

  • http://twitter.com/the_combover The_Combover

    Does it worry me? Yes, but do I honestly believe that someone that loses his job as a carpenter would go learn how to become a software programmer or something of the sort? Not very likely. Government benefits have promoted this idea of “waiting for things to improve” and dissolved a lot of self-reliance that I think people once had.

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