The job search

Today’s New York Times repeats several themes I’ve encountered in the early stages of the News Cut series, “The Unemployed.”

The exception is that in Out of Work, Too Down to Search On, the Times profiles people who have given up the job search.

“When you were in high school and kept asking the head cheerleader out for a date and she kept saying no, at some point you stopped asking her,” one job-seeker said. “It becomes a ‘why bother?’ scenario.”

Several said they’ve given up looking because “it’s a waste of time.” One is taking care of his parents, a 62-year old gave up and filed for Social Security benefits, another is a stay-at-home mom, and a fourth isn’t really doing anything.

One even said he gave up looking “for economic reasons.” Unless one has a luxury of choice, it’s unclear — at least to me — what a suitable alternative to looking for a job is.

On NPR’s people on Weekend Edition Sunday, we heard a follow-up on the lives of several people to whom the network talked in the days after the financial crisis a year ago. One woman had started her own landscape business, another worked at Target and worked as a substitute teacher rather than take unemployment. “I decided I could make more money off unemployment, and unemployment was kind of depressing because you sit home a lot… being useful and mentally being engaged is much more positive than sitting there collecting a check.”

Almost 15 million Americans are officially unemployed, a situation that’s approached in 15 million different ways.

  • “Unless one has a luxury of choice, it’s unclear — at least to me — what a suitable alternative to looking for a job is.”

    The alternative is the underground economy. You paint, repair, clean, etc. a friend’s house for cash. You run errands for people who are too busy working two jobs to run their own errands. Some engage in illegal activities.

    So long as you don’t run a lot of money through your bank account (if you still have one), the government doesn’t care.

    There is a huge underground economy in this country, and for the most part it pays people just barely enough to get by. No one ever conducts any studies to find out how many Americans just scrape by because no one wants to hear the answer.

  • Mary L.

    I’m taking calls daily as part of the Making Homes Affordable phone center and the ones that break my heart are the guys…50 and older..who can’t find a job anywhere. I think women are resilient and flexible enough that they can find anything. They often have more meaning in their lives than just their jobs as well. And the jobs will come back for men 50 and younger.

    But I’m starting to worry that there will be a large number of men who are lost in their late middle age. So many years of working and believing that they can provide for themselves. And now there is nothing for them. Their wisdom is no longer valued. They don’t have the skills or energy of the young. What’s going to happen to them?