Employed again but with a pay cut

7 months unemployment. 150+ applications. 35 networking events. 4 interviews.

“At last 1 job.”

That’s how Robert Hovey summed up his life the past few months. Laid off from an information technology job, he dropped us a line recently to let us know he’d found work, which is great news.

But like many others we’ve talked to during this recession, he’s working now outside his field at much less than he made before the recession.

minnecon.smallicon.gifThe recession’s been so deep and put so many out of work that landing a job is automatically a good thing. We see Minnesota’s jobless rate looking better than the nation. We assume that having a job means no worries.

The reality is that a lot of people are taking less money.

We hear almost weekly from people in MPR’s Public Insight Network who’ve taken a pay cut in their current work. No one’s complaining and it’s one of those issues that hasn’t really been discussed.

Hovey, 46, told us after months of unemployment, he landed work in banking.

“I have taken a business phone banker job. It is not in my field but I am grateful for it,” said Hovey, a Network source. “It is roughly 50% of my former income and hardly more than an unemployment check.”

(The maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Minnesota is $585.)

We asked Hovey for a thumbnail look at his unemployed experience. Anyone who’s had to look for a job — particularly in mid-career — will understand. Hovey said he had to fight the impression that there was something wrong with him.

Acquaintances and family would ask, “Do you have a job yet?” after I had been applying and phoning and beating the pavement all day.

They meant well but I never had so little time as when I was unemployed. I would think – “I shouldn’t read the newspaper. I should be looking for work.”

I get very angry with “experts” who advise unemployed how to be employable. I am a professional … I know how to dress myself and bathe and smile.

We’ll likely be hearing more stories like Hovey’s through 2010. While the economy is improving, more than half the business services firms surveyed this year by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development expect employee wages to remain the same or decrease next year.

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Have you taken a job in this recession for pay lower than what you used to earn? Or are you earning less at the same job? Post below and tell us about it, or contact me directly. You can help keep the conversation rolling.

Click on the map icons below to see what other Minnesotans have been telling us about the jobs climate around them.