I always pay close attention to the monthly unemployment statistics. I'm not an analyst. Or an economist. But I've been unemployed for 2½ years, scraping by on freelance work. I like to dig a little deeper into the numbers to get a better feel for what's really going on -- and what that might mean for me.
Sometimes the unemployment rate goes up a bit, as it did in July, because the unemployed who'd previously given up looking for jobs optimistically decide to resume their searches. Unfortunately, this isn't what happened in July. Instead, another 150,000 people dropped out of the labor force. I also read that the average duration of unemployment fell by a little over a week, to 38.8 weeks, in July. At first glance this may look positive -- people must be finding jobs faster, right? Not necessarily. It can also mean that people who've been out of work for longer periods of time have stopped looking and so are no longer counted.
You can always pick out a few numbers and focus on them to make things look better than they actually are; but the "big picture," the overall trend, remains bad. What I see, from my admittedly skewed perspective as one of the chronically unemployed, is that too many people are despairing of ever finding jobs and are simply giving up.
Numbers are cold. Analysts can choose to highlight the positive ones, but that doesn't change the pain, the fact that millions and millions of people are having a terrible time surviving this longest period of 8 percent-plus unemployment since the Great Depression. The longer this drags on, the worse the impact is on real human beings and their families.
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Maybe because it's been so bad for so long, I almost don't expect the employment picture to get better anymore. Yet I'm still (perhaps irrationally) hopeful that I can defy the odds and find that "happy landing" I used to hear about.
Still, when I pull back from my hyperfocus, the reality I see is that there are huge numbers of us who can't find jobs, no matter what we do and no matter how long we do it.
I don't know how you put a positive spin on that.
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