Long Term Unemployment – Sometimes You Just Need A “Body Count.” :-P

Found a new toy to add to my Great Recession Economic Charts.  Number Of Civilians Unemployed For 27 Weeks And Over.  🙂

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/UEMP27OV

Previously, I had been a fan of the percentage version of this chart which tracked the percent of unemployed who were out of work for 27 weeks and longer, but this version actually attaches a people count, or “body count” if you want to be brusque and crude.  😛  This should come in handy in comparing percents to numbers of people with this stuff.  With this number dropping a lot and the percentage plateauing out it just points all the more to businesses being responsible for any remaining job search woes out there when despite long-term unemployed dropping like crazy the percentage of long-term unemployed, a.k.a. chance that one job loss will mean a long period of no real paycheck, is still ridiculously too high.

If my Statistics professor from back in college ever saw this he’d definitely nod a bit for this.  🙂

Dysfunctionomy – The YouTube Series Thusfar

Having passed the one-year anniversary of my Dysfunctionomy Blog Entry that hammered out the basics of this idea of our problem in this country being more of a people problem than a jobs problem, I finally decided to end the taboo/ban on discussing this topic that I’d been doing since announcing a podcast on the topic that never materialized.  Dysfunctionomy though is too big of a topic to be any kind of one-and-done deal, so I look forward to sounding off on more of these issues in the coming months and years.  🙂

This video picks up where some of my older RadioStyle videos left off that discussed this subject, particularly this one about businesses not cleaning house with folks who don’t care even when there are all kinds of people out there who would love to actually get to have a real job again.

All of this of course evolved from this earlier 2012 discussion on the state of the economy, from which Dysfunctionomy evolved when I saw that what was going on here wasn’t so much of an economy problem as it is a people problem.

There will be more on this discussion of course, particularly when things tick me off.  🙂

Hey McDonalds!!! *THIS* Is Why Young People Hate Old People!!!

I practically grew up with high school kids flipping burgers part time for pocket change being an American stereotype, but apparently giving young people work experience so they can actually have lives when they get out of school is getting more and more taboo these days.

CNET – McDonalds Hires 7,000 Touch-Screen Cashiers

In Europe of all places too, despite that continent having been smashed to pieces by the Great Recession and boat-anchoring international business worldwide,  Quite cheeky as the Brits would put it.  I can somewhat understand perhaps in a more multilingual environment like continental Europe it might streamline operations to have computers take the orders and then just have the restaurant associates cooking and serving food, but why now?  I have the same beef with the Democrats here in the States who are pushing for massive social programs like health care reform and mandatory paid sick leave laws at a time when neither this country nor the American people can afford it.  These would be more palatable and tolerable ideas (not to mention humane and noble) if anyone could actually afford them, but it just shows the true colors of anyone who does this that anyone at all is willing to say, “Hell with the millions flat on their back that are suffering in this country – we’re going to ram this through no matter what!”

McDonalds should know better.  They were the ones who wanted to destroy the “McJobs” reputation that entry-level fast food jobs have a few years ago.  What’s this then?  A white flag that instead of solving the problem by making those jobs more respectable they’re just going to phase them out?  How quickly they forget that these “entry-level” jobs are often snatched up by not-so-entry-level people when we have messes like our current mess going on, or are they that forgetful that they’ve completely forgotten that little fiasco a few years ago that landed them in the national news when over a million people applied for about 60,000 jobs.

Makes me wonder what the plan is when stunts like this become more commonplace and young people in a decade or two find their lives completely ruined before they even have a chance to do anything because nobody will hire them because “they have no experience” yet nobody will let them get any experience in the first place.  Oh who am I kidding?  What’s left of what used to be America is all about social paradoxes crushing the have-nots of society these days.  :-\

In the meantime, let us not wonder why there are generation gaps and generation wars with how the older folks who make these decisions are so blatantly antagonistic to people who haven’t celebrated as many birthdays as them.  :-\

Career Advice Articles Are The New De Jure Vs. De Facto

Just read yet another career advice article on Forbes about how I should be aiming high and chasing my dreams and all that lovely fluffy fairytale stuff blah blah blah that I’ve been reading for the past ten years ever since I was in college (at least).

…and I blinked…  😛

Indeed.  The business world as we know it has its stereotypes – actually I’d daresay that they are more like religious beliefs.  No matter where you look or whose career advice column you read, the same ideas are pushed like dogma.  Network network network!  Don’t sell yourself short!  Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!  Meanwhile half of our college-educated folks in this “everybody should go to college” generation – myself included – are unemployed or underemployed, and for those of us in the latter category our underemployment is pegged to some personal fault of ours rather than the completely dysfunctional excuse for a job market that we have.

Enough with all of this “blaming the victim” nonsense.

Let’s take an objective look at just what constitutes an article like this.  Someone writes something for the purpose of attracting people’s attention on a website or in a magazine or some other publication.  Usually money’s involved somewhere, either in ad revenue for the page view or being directly compensated for writing the article but the ultimate point of these articles is to get people to read them – not to say a word about what the world’s really like when one closes the web browser or puts down the periodical.  😛

Study Law for any amount of time and you’ll eventually encounter “De Jure vs. De Facto” which is the driving force behind cognitive dissonance and the difference between what we see on paper or believe in our minds and the way things actually are in the real world.  Sure we should be building careers in our 20s or something like that, but what do you do when you go from Hero to Zero when you go from your 20s to your 30s, as happened to me.  Despite being this “totally awesome tech guy” that the managers at my last good company really liked I continuously get rejected for even the most entry-level tech jobs I go for – the latest being a grand insult, being at a company I’d actually love to work for because their stock price has actually recovered since the recession officially ended.

This company has been advertising a Help Desk position for nearly two months now.  I sent my resume – no response.  I’m going to fill out their optional formal application and send that in again and see if they even so much as stop sticking their nose in the air at me.  I don’t see why they’d blow off someone with many years of experience helping people with computer problems – including people who are not only clueless about computers but completely hateful towards them – all in a chaotic “I NEED THIS YESTERDAY!!!!” business environment.

Nope.  Apparently I’m not qualified to even be considered for that, even though they’ve already extended the application deadline once because apparently none of the out-of-work computer nerds around here are up to their clearly-impossible standards.

…but there’s obviously something wrong with me because I “can’t get a job in my industry” and toss boxes in a warehouse just to *maybe* not end up bankrupt and homeless by this time next year or in 2015.  Corporate America needs to knock it off with the Nietzsche Übermensch obsession, especially with millions suffering in this country, and talented zealous candidate fish choking and dying in the filthy water all around them while their HR headhunters endlessly wail about how they “can’t fill positions.”

Put down the digital newspaper people – we live in a de facto world.  You are not special, everybody doesn’t have a house, two cars, and a few whole children and a fraction of a child according to the statistics nerds.  😛  Maybe one of these days the people doing the hiring for various companies will figure this out and finally catch up to the rest of us.

Dysfunctionomy – How The Private Sector Could Prolong The Great Recession – And Profit From It Too =(

…Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd here we go again.  Once again – AGAIN!!!! – I’m looking at possibly being laid off.  For those who don’t follow my YouTube channel too much I was laid off from a good job I had for over 6 years in January of 2012, at which point this current death spiral I’ve been stuck in began.  After barely any responses or interviews for just under three months I tried working for a cable company for three months, but they told me to get lost because I didn’t fit in with them (not making that up – new hires were evaluated after three months based on “performance” and “fit” a.k.a. they had all the policy and procedure clauses necessary to be able to get rid of someone for no job-related reason even though the job was already at-will employment to begin with so the policies were completely redundant), and have been returning to my roots doing warehouse work as a “disposable temp” since last Summer.  Now though, the peak season is ending and the volume’s dropping off so it’s time for the folks in charge at this place to decide who if any of the “disposable temps” they might want to keep around.  One fateful night I heard that despite the last good job I had lasting over half a decade before all of this began, the three months at the cable company might be the reason why I get laid off when the “disposable temps” are “disposed of.”

Meanwhile, I’ve astutely observed over the past six months that this place is utterly plagued with people problems among the folks they already have there full time.  There are folks who don’t care, folks who try to see how little they can get done without getting in trouble, folks who stop following procedures when folks’ backs are turned, folks who interestingly enough aren’t there when there’s a good football game going on, etc. etc. etc., some of whom have been there for 6-10 years, longer than I was at my last good job.  Sometimes places have folks like this, but let’s not forget in this specific example while this stuff is going on, there supposedly “aren’t any openings” for anyone who isn’t like this because apparently the idea of replacing some of these folks who don’t care with folks who do isn’t even on the table.  =(

All of this, however, is a symptom and not the problem.  The problem here is one of the longest-running annoyances of the Great Recession that I’ve seen anywhere, not just at this warehouse – or any job I’ve had – ever.

Why Is It That In A Time When This Country Has Record Numbers Of Unemployed And Long-Term Unemployed That So Many People Who Actually Have Jobs Don’t Care Or Have Bad Attitudes???

I just can’t wrap my head around that.  Why are people with bad attitudes tolerated – anywhere?  Why not let those people sit home forever unemployed until they either shape up or go broke as benefit-exhausted 99ers?  Why is it that I keep seeing people with bad attitudes employed ANYWHERE?!!!  Supermarkets, retail stores, pharmacies, specialty stores, offices, restaurants – all over the place!  Meanwhile, people out there with far better attitudes who would kiss someone’s feet if anyone would ever hire them again – anywhere (!) – can’t find stable employment.  =(

Think I’m just being too negative?  Here’s a rant from a YouTuber out in California who’s been out of work since the beginning of 2009.

Notice around the 8 minute mark he starts talking about people with jobs in stores selling technology knowing less about tech than he does, even to the point where the person with the job suggests that SD Cards actually have mechanical discs inside of them.  😛  Seriously?  Think this guy’s just in a bad mood?  Here’s another rant!!!

I could post these all day, but eventually they’re all going to start saying the same thing.  Basically, when you take a look at the common elements of all of these rants about “the economy” eventually you start realizing that much like businesses themselves there’s a people element to this current mess, and simply blaming the economy via a snappy remark like “It’s The Economy Stupid” is basically the act of blaming an inanimate entity without focusing on any people who are part of said entity that might actually be responsible for at least part of what’s been going on, in which case since the private sector seems to evade people’s evaluations of what’s going wrong these days let’s take a look at how the private sector can cause this nonsense to continue perhaps for a long time, even after the “economy” has recovered.

“Wait?  The Private Sector?  How On Earth Can You In Any Way Blame The Private Sector?”

Oh yeah.  This’ll definitely torque some Libertarian types who think the Private Sector never does anything wrong, but before we go pretending the Private Sector was little more than a “victim” of this mess let’s bust out the bulleted lists and play a little catch-up here with some notes.

  • What started this?  A financial crisis and stock market crash.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has prolonged the suffering of millions while up up up and away Corporate Profits After Tax and the similarly high Corporate Profits After Tax As A Percent Of GDP came roaring back shortly after the recession “officially” ended?  The job market.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where 50% of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, as well as similarly outrageously-high numbers of young people and people without college degrees, leading to such wondrous Great Recession Stereotypes as the College-Educated Barista, not to mention things like Janitors With Ph. Ds, etc.?  The job market.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created the outrageously disgusting technique of HR folks lowering the piles of paperwork they have to deal with via infamous tactics like “Unemployed Need Not Apply” and other assorted Great Recession headline makers?  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created the similarly unnerving technique of places posting up job postings but not actually hiring anyone (a.k.a. “fake job postings”) just to maintain a queue of recently-submitted applications in case someone quits or gets fired to minimize the time the position is open whenever it actually is?  Hiring practices these days.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created the wonderful world where applying for a job opens one up to identity theft in the event of an application server breach via mandatory Social Security Number fields on “vintage 1990s-world-wide-web-style” online applications?  Hiring practices.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where credit checks are part of the hiring process for non-financial-type jobs so all those long-term unemployed out there who either destroyed their credit in the housing bubble with a bad mortgage or destroyed their credit in the Great Recession trying to keep themselves off the street can not be hired and thus continue down their financial death spiral because “if they have bad credit they’ll steal from the company so let’s not hire them?”  Hiring practices.  Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where you can see a job posting somewhere that looks like something you can do, apply for it, then if you even so much as get an interview (if the stars line up of course) suddenly the recruiter with an ego/God-complex attitude problem suddenly ramps up the job requirements so outrageously high that you practically have to already be working for them in order to be hired by them for the first time, or just skips the ramp-up entirely and simply posts a job posting with requirements that outrageously high in the first place?  Hiring practices. Private Sector Activity.
  • What has created a world where “everybody’s hiring but nobody’s training – ever” essentially dumping the cost of training onto individuals instead of companies they work for, and creating yet another Catch 22 where workers need skills to get decent jobs but until they have a decent job they can’t afford to go to school to get the skills to get said decent job, etc. etc. etc.  Employer conduct.  Private Sector Activity.

Need I go on?  😛  For fairness’ sake I should probably be open to the idea of this happening in Public Sector and government type jobs too, but let’s not forget to ask the important question – does this type of stuff happen in the private sector?  At which point if your answer’s yes…  😛

“So What’s The Problem Here?”

The problem here is a matter of being humane to other human beings and recognizing the merits of people with good character and a good work ethic, as well as the business consequences of “having the wrong people on the bus” as Jim Collins puts it in business books like the well-known Good To Great.  Put those together and we may *never* see a better job market even if the economy completely recovers, because folks responsible for people getting jobs will be so used to the slop that everyone’s been swimming in for so long that an actual taste of prosperity would be quite a shock to the ol’ system.  :-\

This assumes, of course, that the economy even gets better in the first place.

Consider this.  Right now out there in what passes for capitalism these days there are all kinds of industries where corporations have been eating each other up like hungry sharks in a handsomely-chummed pool.  Mass-consolidation is the name of the game in industry after industry after industry and the resulting lack of competition and deterioration of customer service has some folks wondering if we might need to reintroduce and maintain more competition by any means necessary because not enough exists as things are.  Thus, it’s possible more than ever these days that even in a market with alleged “competition” you can have situations where all the players do a poor job and the customer has nowhere to turn.

Imagine if in these markets we keep seeing this problem of the wrong people getting jobs while the right people sit home unemployed.  First, the right people who become long-term unemployed and/or scarred/destroyed for life by the experience give up and leave the job market, so what happens to this problem of the wrong people getting all the jobs?  It grows of course.  :-\

Meanwhile, what’s going on in these companies with these bad people that they won’t get rid of for whatever reason?  Well, the “wrong people on the bus” end up costing them money, which hurts their performance, which hurts their results, which hurts their ability to hire more people, which hurts their financial performance, which can hurt their stock price if investors are scared away, which then in multiple ways hurts the economy as the very ways that business normally causes money to change hands diminishes (lower wages – people buy less stuff, less capital – company invests less money in stuff, etc.).  Normally, one would think the market could correct itself via bad businesses going under, but with enough huge oligopolies, again, what if all the big players do that sort of stuff and the mere inertia of simply being a big player causes smaller players in the market to not have a chance?

So, does that vicious cycle ever end?  Anywhere?

“But Don’t Businesses Want To Make Money?”

Of course as usual businesses want to make money.  It’s kind of what they’re there for.  😛  With these kinds of widespread job market shenanigans these days though it’s easy to get suspicious that maybe for someone out there somewhere it’s in their best interests to keep things as bad-looking as possible for as long as possible.  Bulleted list time again.  😛

  • First, the appearance of a bad economy helps with keeping labor costs under control and driving down how much employers ultimately end up paying people by arming them with a full arsenal of ways to dangle the job carrot.  “Oh, you don’t like the pay?  NEXT!!!”  “Do you really want this job that asks the world from you for $8/hour part time no benefits?”  “Look, 50 other people want your job here.  If you’re not happy, we’ll just get someone else.”  “Don’t like it?  Want a better deal?  Good look getting another interview.”  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  Note I said appearance of a bad economy, like keeping a public mythos going that “there are NO JOBS” by any means necessary to retain bargaining power at the negotiating table, even if it means passing over good people for folks who just do enough right to not kill the business.
  • It’ll help deal with whatever’s left of those “pesky” unions out there – either with existing negotiations (“ohhhhh times are harrrrrrrd please take these concessions if you want this company to stay afloat”) or with keeping a workforce from organizing in the first place.  Want to avoid any semblance of organized labor?  Make things look bad and get it drilled in people’s heads that times are still tough even if the only reason there are “no jobs” is because the wrong people have them and the dysfunctionality of things has become SOP across the entire industry of largely a few big players that have gobbled up whatever competition they once had.
  • A mythos of “hard times” can help with other costs too if the ability exists to mess with them.  Honoring warranties?  Customer service?  The grocery shrink ray?  Oh have at them because “times are sooooooo harrrrrd.”  Yeah.  😛
  • Now suppose another business wants to do the right thing and not get caught up in this mess.  Could they possibly do better if they’re not caught up in this mess and thus hire better people but end up paying them more and having costs associated with being on the ball with things become notably higher than a place that is caught up in this stuff?  I hope there are still good places out there that can do well.  I’ve just been thinking about why places that aren’t so good stay around for so long despite the usual rules of competitive markets.  :-\

“But Doesn’t This Thing Stop Somewhere?”

Of course.  All gravy trains eventually stop, but that’s not to say folks riding the gravy train so to speak can’t milk the crap out of the thing before it finally derails.  Then of course it’ll be time to find or create another train to milk even more.  😛  If say this current mess went on long enough for us to see the end of it without someone stopping it somehow maybe there might be more problems when everything crashed, but until then, our current problems exist because of this milking process itself.  😛  How this ends – I do not know.  I can only hope it’s not as bad as it could be.  =(

In the meantime, let’s just hope things get better.  =(  This type of long-term unemployment mess has been shown to cause serious problems with people, and even drive some folks to commit suicide.  =(

…and to wrap things up, here’s two Liz Ryan articles similar to the one I linked earlier.

Liz Ryan – Glassdoor.com – Why Talented People Don’t Get Hired

Liz Ryan – Glassdoor.com – Are Companies Beating Talent Away With A Stick?

…and let’s call it a big long blog entry with some Moonlight Sonata and the Chrono Trigger Ruined World Eternal Derelict OC Remix to finish everything off.  =(

Want A New Job? Pay Up Sucka! :-P

So who else out there is completely fed up with our government being completely clueless when it comes to creating a strong middle class, including the Democrats who supposedly champion it?  Oh come on now.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  😛

“Job been outsourced?  Laid off?  Get retrained!” seems to be the tagline for displaced workers lately.  President Obama has been going around rambling on about investing in community colleges so that workers can be retrained for new careers if their current careers have been outsourced or destroyed.  Heck, even one of the community colleges in my neck of the woods is building a whole new building just for the purposes of retraining people for careers in certain fields, but while all this is going on, what’s missing here?

Oh yeah, that’s right.  Who’s paying for it?  Of course!  You are!  In the name of rich companies’ stocks going up a fraction of a point or something like that all you poor working peons out there will have to fork out more money just to continue to have a job that isn’t part-time minimum wage no benefits etc.  Had enough of this nonsense yet?  Especially when numerous bloggers, authors, documentary filmmakers, etc., are getting attention by talking about going to college like it was the scam of the century?

Personally, I’m fed up with these constant attempts to corral people with at least half a brain into the education money sink as much as humanly possible.  Take me for instance.  I have a trade school background in electronics and a four year business degree, but check it out – most consumer electronics and small appliances are completely throwaway these days and nobody wants any managers or supervisors, and what few job postings I see for someone with a Bachelor’s in Business the job requirements are so strict these companies practically will only hire people who’ve already worked for them before.  Oh but if I go back to school and spend even more money on top of my student loans maybe I’ll be able to be *considered* for jobs that require such-and-such skills.

Sounds like a typical textbook ROI scenario, except for one critical problem – this is the Great Recession we’re talking about here.  Everybody and their mother’s uncle among the unemployed are applying for everything in sight, so why should anyone hire me even if I dropped all that money on training when there might be someone with actual prior experience they could hire instead?  Now apply this situation to all those people out there who are being suckered by all these for-profit college commercials promising “a new career” and little wonder analysts out there are thinking Student Debt will be the next big bubble to burst that’ll make the sub-prime mortgage crisis look like a few pennies falling out of someone’s piggy bank.  😛

Everybody practically wants people who’ve worked for them before when posting “job openings” (which by the way, they don’t even need to be hiring anyone for if they’re just queuing applications and resumes in case someone quits or gets fired).  Times are hard, right?  America’s economy has barely been kept from crashing and burning all these years?  Not exactly.  Check out this graph, and go grab your torch and pitchfork when you finally stop weeping.  It practically makes the “bad economy” look like a fabrication of some really rich people who want to make still more money off of the suffering of millions.  I’ve mentioned St. Louis Federal Reserve Economic Charts before, but here’s a new one I’ll keep an eye on.

St. Louis FRED – Corporate Profits After Tax

Yeah, a dip around the time of the crash, but a quick snap back and the number going up, up, and away ever since, while the victims of the crash have to fork over more money they no longer have into the education money sink to *maybe* *someday* have a good job again – at least until the next time their job gets eliminated, then they can start the vicious cycle all over again.

But let’s not forget, folks.  We the American people have to “get past our cynicism.”  😛