My Unemployed Life: Is 8 Percent Unemployment The 'New Normal'?
I like to post in the numerous job seeker discussion groups on LinkedIn. I've "met" so many capable, hard-working people over there who can't find good jobs in this stagnant economy. Sharing our experiences, we understand that our situations aren't our "fault" and support each other as we navigate these rocky unemployment waters.
Just recently I've detected a hint of optimism in the discussions, a bit of an undercurrent that we shouldn't give up, that we should all "hang in there." Maybe it's my imagination, but even I have the feeling that my prolonged unemployment may be a bad dream from which -- with any luck -- I may soon wake up. But why? We've all heard the frequently-cited fact that unemployment has been at 8 percent or higher for 42 consecutive months. Coincidentally, this is just a bit shorter than the duration of the current presidential administration.
We also know that there's a presidential election just two months away.
Throughout my 32-month unemployment, I've often questioned why government bureaucrats don't try something different to help get the economy moving again.
In the beginning, perhaps you could give them the benefit of the doubt, but now, after nearly four years, it's reasonable to conclude that the policies they've pursued haven't been effective. In fact, isn't this obvious?
So when they talk about doing more of the same for four more years, my gut instinct says no, we can't permit that to happen. Even taking the emotion out of it, a logical person has to be concerned that our economic situation may never improve if we continue with another four years of ineffective approaches. If we hope to solve these persistent problems, then I think we have to consider other solutions now.
The upcoming election gives us 23 million or so unemployed and underemployed people a tremendous opportunity. We may be powerless to find good jobs, but together, our voting power is enormous. We can express our collective will that we must pursue a different course.
Please note: I am not telling people how to vote in local or the presidential elections. I'm not trying to tell you to become a Democrat or a Republican. What am I saying is that we, the unemployed, can harness the power of our votes to bring change in economic policies.
If we don't, then consider this: What comes next? Will we just have to give up and accept that this is the "new normal," that we might as well get used to "the way things are"?I will not do that.
This is not the future I want for my son and I doubt if it's the future that you want for your kids and grandkids, this chronic, miserable shortage of economic opportunities. The way I see it, it's in our hands. It's up to us to do what we can, while we can. This is our chance.
It may be that a booming economy may happen too late to help many of us. But don't you want your legacy to be the best shot we can give our young people at a fulfilling, prosperous, secure future? I do.
So who knows? In the end, we unemployed and underemployed people may turn out to have far more power than we realize.
Or is this all just part of my dream, the delusions of someone desperately seeking a silver lining in this cloud called unemployment?
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Fran Hopkins is a lifelong NJ resident and Baby Boomer who’s been searching for full-time work since losing her job in a January 2010 layoff. While “between jobs,” she’s earned an MS degree in Health Communication, does freelance writing and public relations, and is actively involved in the NJ chapter of the Association for Women in Communications. Her household includes a college-age son and an assortment of pets.
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