I Can Make More On Unemployment

The top complaint I hear from employers about unemployment extensions is having candidates turn down jobs because they claim they can make more on unemployment. It’s a concern that’s easy to get riled up about. I’d like to add some perspective, however.

Let me say first, yes, there are lazy people who don’t care to improve their circumstances or pull their weight in this world. They are happy to live off of the efforts of others. That said, there are also a lot of responsible and smart people caught up in a nightmare right now with a lot of complicated layers. I promise you, many of the people I interact with who receive unemployment benefits hate the experience. The emotions that come from cashing that check are hard to understand if you haven’t been in that situation or know someone really well who has.

Back to accepting low paying jobs. If the job in question has a true street value comparable to unemployment, I agree the job seeker should be open to taking it. Especially if the employer is open to the fact those who have made considerably more in the past will need to keep their job search going in order to land a job better able to meet the obligations of the committed expenses they likely have (mortgage, student loans, car notes, etc.). Most of the job seekers I work with have applied for a variety of low paying jobs for cash flow. Do employers call them in for an interview? Rarely.

The low paying jobs that seem to chase them are those that are questionable marketing opportunities that are commission only or positions requiring skill sets similar to theirs that pay well below the actual street value for the job. Because so many displaced workers are struggling to find jobs, some companies have knowingly attempted to exploit their desperate circumstances. In addition to low-balling wages, companies are frequently classifying the jobs as part-time. Is that because the workload isn’t sufficient for full-time or is it an attempt to dodge providing benefits? Hard to say. Unfortunately, many of the part-time opportunities my contacts have been presented with involve so many hours, with unpredictable schedules, it makes it nearly impossible for the individual to have the time or flexibility to interview for other jobs better able to provide for their families’ needs. In fact, there is a less than subtle suggestion those who would continue their job search need not apply. There is a training expense to account for,  you see.

It’s a no win situation for the job seeker. They are a leech on society if they don’t agree to be exploited. If they take the job, they are committing themselves to almost certain financial ruin. These aren’t horrible or irresponsible people. They are normal hard working professionals caught in the middle of a nightmare who are trying to find a way to provide for their families. They are individuals with skills and long careers trying to make choices that won’t destroy their chances of being taken seriously down the road. They are men and women smart enough to know when someone is trying to exploit them and in a position to say “not yet, you don’t.” If unemployment benefits went away, job seekers wouldn’t have this layer of protection. They’d have to bow to whatever low rates employers felt compelled to offer because they’d be stuck without other options.

Again, I’m not saying all who are on unemployment are trying hard to get off of it and I’m not saying all employers offering lower wages are out of line. I’m simply attempting to offer more balance to the debate. Be upset with those who are gaming the system. Just know it’s not just about job seekers. Direct your disapproval equally to the employers suggesting their job requiring an Associates Degree or higher in Accounting commands an $8-$10/hr pay rate. Shake your finger at the company who lays off their $50K Operations Manager and hires a new grad for $24K. Wrinkle your nose at the school districts pink slipping certified teachers and hiring them back as teacher’s aides for $10/hr because they can. Candidates who have had to knowingly take positions clearly below the fair market value will tell you it’s a tough pill to swallow with a lot of important factors to consider.

Anyone who says they’d take the job and just suck it up is probably making that claim without the consequence of ever having to make that decision themselves. I don’t see many of the critics being willing to practice what they are preaching.


  • Bethany says:

    love it lisa! thanks for adding your respected voice to this touchy subject & speaking some “benefit of the doubt” advice to the masses :)

  • Tamara says:

    Sometimes a job seeker will take a lower paying job simply because it will provide benefits which is more than unemployment will pay. Sometimes the job is near home and travel time and gas expenses may be relatively lower than their previous job. Other times job seekers may take the lower paying job with hopes of growth opportunities down the line after they had a chance to prove themselves.

    Another option is that sometimes job seekers can take a lower paying job and work in way that makes them hard to replace. Going beyond the job description can make an employee too valuable to let go and when that employee starts looking at the competition in order to grow, the company has to re-evaluate their own road to success. Good companies want good employees. It is how they survive and flourish. Bad companies with poor ethics do not attract loyalty and quality – two essential ingredients for long lasting success.

    It pains me that companies will exploit their employees tossing them aside like replaceable shoes. Realize that many times the company has been hard hit as well being forced to downsize in order to exist. With this understanding, if it is true that is – going into the job market with a business partner’s attitude and making the company’s goals your goals can be very attractive to a hiring manager.

    All in all it is indeed an employers’ job market right now. The competition is much tighter and learning to sell our value is absolutely crucial in this crazy economy.

  • Joe says:

    Being out of work for several months, I can give my view of the local market. I am a $45k-$60k earner. My background is in operations. Attempting to find employment in my field is laughable. My position now advertises for $8-$14 per hour. Benefits are not always provided and don’t even come close to what they were. Being hourly, you can work 30-40 hours per week. Then you need to go onto this website, log in to Taleo, Xaenna, or the others that I can’t even recall but have seen plenty. Spend up to 2 hours for one job and it maybe only part time. Really?!? It’s an $8/hour job! Stop it already. What ever happened to people skills? What ever happened to an actual human looking at a resume and deciding for them-self instead of a stupid software?!

    I have applied online during the weekend to some of these job postings and received an email with responses similar to this; “Upon reviewing your application, we regret to inform you that we have other candidates that more closely match.” Really? Did anyone actually look at my information? You know that resume that you either worked on for a long time yourself or paid someone to make for you. Well most of the time you can’t even get it into the system. No, you have to spend hours typing everything in.

    I know the economy is bad. Must people are aware of this. But I as well as others are stressed out to the max. I have a family to provide for. Unless you are personally experiencing it yourself, you can not truly understand the feelings that one goes through. To worry about being able to take care of your children is the scariest feeling I have ever faced. You’re desperate for work. You know you need to do something. You are also smart enough to know that you could very well ruin your family and yourself for many years taking the low paying, no real benefits job.

    Now to those out there that will say I’m spoiled, I’m selfish, I should be thankful for any job and just roll up my sleeves and deal with it I have a response. The reality to this side of the fence is; I have rolled up my sleeves, busted my butt, sacrificed, worked for low pay and built myself up. Along the way, I got married, have children, a house, cars. As your income grows, so do your expenses. When you go from say $30k/yrly to $50k/yrly, you are able to live in a slightly better area for your children. This in return provides more safety, less crime, better neighbors. You’re able to actually able to buy your children something nice once in awhile. You save a little because you know child expenses are always in-front of you. Then boom! It all falls apart. If you have never moved up the economic scale, then you may not understand. If you have and now experience the loss on not just you but your loved ones, it’s depressing.

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