Unemployment Numbers

Unemployment numbers…they’re up, they’re down, they’re up, they’re down, they’re stagnant, they’re up, they’re down… I’m sure I’m not the only one with a kink in my neck trying to keep track of it all. This week we are firmly in the “up” category. The official percentage is 9.2. I suspect the actual number is higher, but we’ll save that for another day.

If you follow me on Twitter (@RecruiterUncens) you probably noticed I got a bit prickly over the political spin tied to the release of the latest figures. Democrats and Republicans alike just love to use the plight of the unemployed to shred the other side and push for action on agendas they deem important. It drives me bonkers because we have a serious problem here and those with the ability to actually do something about it are too caught up in political maneuvering for election advantages to focus on what counts. I’ve honestly lost the ability to sort out fact from fiction any more. Those of you who think you can, kudos. All I know to do at this point is keep my nose down and focus on the overall effort with as much objectivity as possible.

Back to the numbers. The increase in unemployment numbers didn’t surprise me this time around and shouldn’t have surprised anyone else, media and political figures included. Yes, there are things that Obama, Democrats & Republicans have done or failed to do in the past that are making things worse, but in the present sense, we still should have seen this coming. Several things are happening right now that have me preparing for a bumpy next couple of months. I don’t say that to freak people out. Freaking out isn’t productive. I personally think we’ll all be better off if we can approach the situation rationally and not let all of the drama in Washington DC distract us from a clear strategy. Politicians are trying to win future elections. We, on the other hand, are trying to win good outcomes for ourselves.

So, what’s happening. First, most have followed the substantial spending cuts on the federal, state and local level. No matter what side you’re on in terms of supporting the cuts, logic dictates jobs were going to be lost as a result of them. More will follow as budgets are finalized and sorted out. Hopefully the newly displaced can be absorbed by the private sector in short order. Planning on how to make that happen, especially when many of those who lost their jobs are connected to professions/organizations that were battered in the media in order to gain support for the cuts, is going to be the challenge. Just like the chronic unemployed have to fight all of the negative assumptions automatically made about their abilities, motivation and such, these individuals are in the same boat for different reasons.

Another reason unemployment numbers are going to go up is our plan to scale back on military operations. Again, it doesn’t matter if you agree with the need for this to happen or not. Eventually it will, perhaps sooner than later, and we need to be realistic about what it means to the economy so we can prepare and not be shocked. Military operations help economies. WWII really helped get us out of the Great Depression. As military members and contractors return from overseas, those whose services won’t be needed anymore will join the unemployed for a time. Industries that have been supporting our military initiatives will likely cut back operations and personnel, as well. It makes sense this will happen. Let’s prepare and not allow ourselves to get caught up in the blame games.

The current gridlock in Washington DC over budgets is also a factor. The private sector is stuck in a holding pattern. Hiring is about meeting future needs, not past needs. If businesses can’t predict what the future holds because Congress and the President can’t make efficient and longer lasting decisions, they pull back. Again, it doesn’t matter what your political preferences are, we should all be able to see how these 11th hour negotiations, waffling on regulations/tax codes and short fix budget plans cripple business decisions in our country. Both sides are contributing to this problem and should be condemned for doing so. I’m starting to believe any decision Washington DC can make at this point is better than no decision at all. How sad is that?

Of course, there are many more factors contributing to the job picture in our country than the three listed above. I’m sharing these though because I felt the need to insert some objectivity into a situation where many seemed to be acting shocked, panicked and negative. I personally think it would have been better for our country if our politicians and media personalities, who are smart enough to  know this was going to happen, too, had prepared the public for this outcome and acknowledged this was going to be something we’d have to find workable solutions for. Panic and additional efforts to wedge Americans apart over politics solves nothing.

So, if you’ve made it this far, remember to keep focus and perspective in your search. These numbers don’t mean things are hopeless. I’m still seeing improved job flow. Many job seekers I work with have more positions to apply for these days and are landing more interviews and offers. Salaries are improving. I’m sure there are reports out there that will contradict this, but I don’t care about them. They don’t change the reality of what I am experiencing. In a two week period, 11 people from my networking groups landed jobs. That’s the highest number in that amount of time yet. Some had been looking for years. Several more are nearing offers. These latest numbers don’t change that. Know where we are as a country, but also do what you can to filter out the drama and still see the bright spots in your own search.

Final note, this is not intended to be a political blog. I won’t tolerate any political sparring in the comments for this post. Any comments that take a political side won’t be posted. It’s too distracting to the actual message.


  • Lisa says:

    After reading my post, it occurred to me some might think I’m not concerned about the latest numbers. Make no mistake I am very concerned. Also know I am angry that so many are still struggling. My anger is what drives my volunteer efforts to help unemployed professionals get back to work. I’ve been concerned for several years at the inadequate number of jobs available. The point of this post is that yesterday’s numbers didn’t surprise me and send my focus into a tailspin. They were disappointing, yet expected. I also think some people have started actively looking again because they can tell job flow is stronger. It seems odd to say that while seeing unemployment numbers going up, but in my day-to-day, there are definitely more job leads hitting my desk than previously.

  • I just returned from a quick vacation to find this perspective on the current [un]employment situation we are experiencing in the U. S. As a colleague in the Staffing industry I am fortunate to work first hand with Lisa in the local [Greater Lansing] marketplace and sincerely appreciate her candor and commitment to the bigger cause. Despite the doom and gloom portrayed in local and national media about the employment landscape our firm has experienced a marked increase in job opportunities with a wide range of companies. Although my firm specializes in IT, we are seeing a lot of new activity through our social media (Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and networking (LEAP, CAMW etc.) channels as they are showcasing a broad spectrum of jobs for a diverse set of skills. I agree with Lisa’s analysis that while we are not out of the woods yet and there will continue to be instability in the jobs market – [a positive] attitude, connections and communication are the key ingredients to perseverance & success in the job hunt. While politics will always be part of the equation, it is people like Lisa that will keep the focus on making a real difference on the front lines. Thanks Lisa!

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