Unemployment Blues: Is the Recession Really Over?


By: Chris Williams

The recession of 1975 was an interesting time for many Americans in the flailing job market, and people who lived through those perilous unemployment blues are now witnessing history repeating itself. The unemployment rate has been steadily rising like the ocean’s tides, and the ship of America’s future is reaching unchartered territory.

For anyone who has a job currently: be thankful you’re still employed. The latest numbers are staggering to say the very least. According to the September 3 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In August, the number of unemployed persons was 14.9 million, and the unemployment rate remained in the range of 9.5 to 9.7%. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for whites (8.7%) edged up in April, while the rates for adult men (9.8%), adult women (8.0%), teenagers (26.3%), Blacks (16.3%) and Hispanics (12.0%) showed little or no change.

The jobless rate for Asians was 7.2%. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) continued to trend up over the month, reaching 6.2 million, and 42% of unemployed persons had been jobless for 27 weeks or more.

Over the past year, I’ve encountered many individuals who have been laid off, looking for work or they’re worried about losing their job. The number of jobs lost in the past year has been greater than at the end of World War II. The overall unemployment rate is at an incomprehensible 9.7% and steadily growing.

According to many economic experts, the worst is yet to come, although there was some mediocre job growth in July and August respectively.

I can speak from experience of having to look for a job in this dreadful economy. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with two degrees, and it took four months to find a job. I was eventually laid off from that job the following summer. I claimed unemployment benefits which totaled a paltry sum of $56 per week. I went to numerous job fairs held in different cities, and three months later I started working part-time for now defunct Hollywood Video.

I was forced to take something just to get by, while continuing my search for another place of employment. I eventually accepted an offer to go back to my alma-mater as a part-time Admissions Counselor in the Undergraduate Admissions office. The drive of commuting back and forth for a 20-hour-per-week job made me barely break even once my first paycheck came in a month later.

Every day people share similar stories on what they’re going through in this abhorrent economic climate. “You have to go online to fill out an application then we will call you back if you’re qualified for the position” is a phrase that many have grown accustomed to hearing over the last year from representatives of governmental agencies, small businesses and multi-million dollar companies.

The utter frustration of taking a job for which you’re over-qualified, for less pay, is more than the average person can take, but it’s something that we or at least one of our family members has dealt with. Workers who are currently employed are often being asked to do two and three jobs at the same pay grade, because companies know they can get away with it due to the ghastly economy.

What’s the average American to do?

Too many college graduates have been told to go to school and that “the world will be your oyster” once you graduate. As I’ve often heard from the Baby Boomer generation, “It’s not how it used to be, I remember when you could go to college and when you graduated there was a good job waiting for you from a company where you could climb the ladder.”

These are indeed disparate times and we’re all suffering from the greed and the lack of accountability from Wall Street and the Bush administration.

This recession has affected both young and old around the world. It is quite clear when you turn on the news every night and you hear that another piece of ‘Americana’ has succumbed to liquidation or a bank has gone out of business. Despite the final passing of the Wall Street reform legislation by President Obama in July 2010, more has to be done to reverse this downward spiral.

The focus for the rest of 2010 should be on job creation in the public and private business sectors of our society.

For most Americans, the reality of the situation is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better in the near future. In September, 2010, the U.S. government declared that the recession is now over. President Obama and his economic team will continue to meet on a daily basis despite the declaration.

Since the end of October 2009, officials have been working diligently to devise a plan to help revive this dwindling economy, but it seems the one that they’ve constructed is doing little to solve our current issues. Every day the situation continues to grow worse and families have more questions than answers.

We could very well be on the verge of another Great Depression if the partisanship in the halls of Congress doesn’t come to an end.

This isn’t the time to impose your agendas on the other party in power. The American public deserves better than what we’re getting from our congressmen and senators.

This is the time for America to show its fortitude, and from different numeric indicators we may very well need another $780 billion stimulus plan to quell the ills of our economy.

In the words of Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish historian, “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun.

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