Why doesn’t it feel like the good times?

The most interesting statistic — to me — from today’s news that Minnesota’s unemployment rate has held steady at 5.5 percent in February is this one: “The state is just 1,000 jobs short of its previous high point for jobs in February 2008.”

Here’s the bottom line from the Department of Employment and Economic Development news release:

Professional and business services led all sectors in February with 6,800 new jobs. Other sectors that added jobs were leisure and hospitality (up 3,200), education and health services (up 1,900), financial activities (up 1,700), construction (up 1,400), trade, transportation and utilities (up 1,300), and logging and mining (up 100). Other services held steady.

Job losses occurred in February in government (down 1,000), manufacturing (down 800) and information (down 100).

Over the past year, trade, transportation and utilities added the most jobs, growing by 15,200. The other sectors that added jobs were education and health services (up 13,100), professional and business services (up 12,300), government (up 5,300), financial activities (up 3,600), manufacturing (up 3,400), leisure and hospitality (up 3,300), information (up 2,200), other services (up 1,900), construction (up 1,900), and logging and mining (up 300).

Good times? Then why doesn’t it feel like it? It’s not a rhetorical question. It may well be that people have taken jobs paying less than what they made before the economy collapsed. But even talking with people who kept their jobs, didn’t lose pay or benefits, I sense a feeling that more people are still going to work each day wondering if this is the day it all ends.

The economy is different now, as economists have been telling us for years. Nobody — or at least not many — are going to retire with a gold watch anymore. Jobs will come and jobs will go and it’s the uncertainty of when that will be and who will be affected that takes some getting accustomed to.

Unemployment can leave a wicked wound of lower self esteem and confidence that going back to work doesn’t instantly build.

In the long run, I often wonder whether the relationship between employer and employee has changed forever and whether it’s for the better or for the worse. Perhaps a business relationship should just be a business relationship and nothing more. It wasn’t always thus.

So it’s a different world and while comparing numbers to the old one are interesting, I still long for a decent statistic that does a better job of factoring in the psychology of the working world today.

Discussion point: How’s it feel at your workplace compared to the good times?


    I think one major change is that people are working much harder in the jobs they have. For the past several years in my company we’ve been asked to do “more with less.” As someone who takes pride in performing a job well, then tension between the demand and resources casts a pall over the workplace. It does feel less secure.

  • Mark Gisleson

    I think it was Sen. Elizabeth Warren who just pointed out that if minimum wage increases had matched productivity gains since the ’70s, the minimum wage would now be $22 an hour.

    Maybe full employment feels better when it comes with full wages. And, of course, none of the part-time burger flippers are “unemployed.”

  • Bob Collins

    // And, of course, none of the part-time burger flippers are “unemployed.”

    From what I can tell, McDonald’s doesn’t even have grills anymore to flip the burgers. When I look back there now, I just see a guy waiting for some machine to spit out what is purportedly a hamburger.

    Not like the old days, you needed two people…. one for the meat and one to handle the buns…. in big rushes you’d have one to handle the condiments.

    Now, you just need one, apparently.

  • Kassie

    In the good times, I was young. I was quickly moving up the career ladder. I was getting regular raises. There were promotional opportunities galore and promises of everyone older than me retiring quickly.

    Now, I’m old. Okay, I’m mid-30s. I’ve been in the same job since 2007. Next month I’ll get my first raise in four years. It is for 2%, the exact amount my FICA taxes went up. There are very few jobs out there and all those people who were supposed to retire are hanging around because they can’t afford to retire.

    Sure, I’m technically making more money, but I’m really not since my expenses have increased faster than my income. I think that’s how it feels for most everyone who has held on to jobs these tough years. I can’t even imagine how it feels for those who have lost jobs or can’t even find their first one.