Monday, January 2, 2012

Out of work or unemployable?

I heard a short interview on the radio while driving that got my attention. It was a news commentary on the increase in the minimum wage in various states. In this case the interview was of a slightly older woman who had been out of work for a relatively long time and who blamed her inability to get a job on her age. She claimed to have been working at a position paying over $67,000 a year and had been unable to find work "in her field" and had finally found a job as a clerk in a convenience market for minimum wage. She topped off the interview by noting that she found it necessary to give up toothpaste and deodorant so she could feed her dog. 

OK, this scenario opens up a plethora of issues. Age is genuinely a factor. But job qualifications are more important than age or experience. Because I have no idea where this woman worked or what she did before she lost her job, I am forced to look at the overall picture for reasons why this can happen. First, if you hadn't noticed, we are in the middle of a post-industrial revolution. I have a friend who lost her job and she is training to do online support for a major company. This particular company found that customer satisfaction was so poor with their "overseas" support that they are moving all of their support jobs back to the U.S. with trained people. She will be working from home on her computer and providing telephone and online support. The job pays much better than minimum wage.

Perhaps this lady on the radio was employed in a job that no longer exists or maybe her whole type of work is no longer part of our economy? My guess is that the so-called high unemployment rate is more a reflection of the way the overall employment environment in the world is changing than it is a reflection of the economy. There are skill sets for jobs where the jobs going begging for qualified people. For example, during most of the past two years, our office has advertised consistently for qualified paralegal assistants and has gone months without finding a qualified prospect no matter how old or how long they had been out of work. I have been told repeatedly that there simply are no qualified paralegal assistants available. I personally added to the unemployment by retiring.

If there are jobs openings that go begging, why are there long term unemployed? It is a situation where the job skills need to match the job openings. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. But if you are presently in a good paying job, you should count on the fact that the job may end. So what are you going to do about it now? I suggest looking at the present jobs shortages and begin to cross-train. Think of other things you can do and begin now to prepare for the downsizing and job losses of the future. Take a lesson from the insurance industry, quoting from the Insurance Networking News, "Despite high levels of unemployment, U.S. business leaders say one of the biggest risks they’re facing is a talent and skills shortage, according to the 2011 Lloyd’s Risk Index." In another article in the Huff Post Business the claim was "The mining and software industries have at least one thing in common. A labor scarcity, or a shortage of skilled workers, could affect the profit margins for both of them, according to a report issued by Fitch Ratings Tuesday afternoon."

It would be interesting to know what skills the radio lady had and what she had done to improve her skills while she was gainfully employed.


Danny Pizdetz said...

You're making a lot of assumptions in your response to this radio bit. Perhaps instead of second guessing yourself you could have found a few people who used to make $67k and talk to them. You're retired, you have time on your hands, right?

You are correct that we live in a post-industrial era, but can you truly propose that most people who earn $67k a year will now need to earn minimum wage? And if so, are you willing to extrapolate that they will need to earn 50% less next year and project that into the future? How do you see America in a world where every year our income is 50% lower? How do you think the working public will view the retired who earn the same plus a bit each year when each year they earn 50% less?

You have also not talked about the time of the day that many telemarketers are asked to work. Yes, your friend who is providing phone support may be earning better money than minimum wage, but if she must work at a time that daycare is not open for her kids then her earnings may be a net loss.

Why are there job sets that go long term ignored by the working force, like paralegals? Because they are shitty boring jobs that pay less than daycare costs.

Yes, it sure would be "interesting to know what skills the radio lady had and what she had done to improve her skills while she was gainfully employed." but you've failed to investigate that answer. Instead you've just said shitty things about her and made assumptions about her life and her history. I'm very glad you live on your golden hill when you can judge so wisely. I hope you will never be judged so critically yourself.

James Tanner said...

I am certainly sorry that you missed the entire point of my post.