Scissors and Politics

There is a lot of chatter, political punditry and all around noise surrounding business and politics these days.  With the economy effectively screeching to a halt before our eyes and political leaders jockeying for position rather than seeking a solution, people have begun to lose hope. People have begun to look to their futures with fear rather than faith. What went wrong?

I was sitting in a downtown barber shop last week eagerly awaiting my son’s first haircut when I overheard a conversation next to me.  It was both poignant and raw.  An older gentleman, probably in his mid-seventies was heading into the barbershop with his son.  My immediate thought was that the man’s son was taking his father to the barber in a touching reverse to the years before.  But as I listened it became clear that the older father was taking his son out to talk.  It turns out the son had been laid off…just a few days before in the middle of the economic crisis.  He was married and had been keeping up a brave face for his family.  But what he kept saying over and over was “I don’t know what to do, Dad.  I don’t know what to do.”  I tried to look away and mind my own business, but as a Mother supporting my own family, I felt my heart jerk.

His father clearly intended to take him out for some words of wisdom, motivation or inspiration.  But even his father was left speechless.  He sighed, took off his hat and dropped his head.  “Things used to be different” was all he could say.

As a Recruiter I spend a great deal of my time working with people who have lost their jobs in this economy.  It’s run of the mill and you learn to ignore the lives behind the stories.  You have to if you want to be effective and keep moving forward.  But I can’t help but ask myself what has happened that things have gotten so very bad for so very many.  Will things ever get back to normal?

With unemployment in the US still standing at 9.1% (it hasn’t dropped below 8% since January 2009) and the rate of labor underutilization (effectively previously working individuals who have given up looking for work) at 16.5% things are looking bleak.  People that have jobs are scared of losing them. People that have lost jobs are giving up hope on ever finding one again.  But as in all things, keeping hope and looking to tomorrow is crucial.  But more than anything, education is the key to the future.

What do I mean by that?  It’s simple really… In the recruiting business the big players out there are always dropping money into market research.  And in recent years a large part of that has been in relation to labor statistics. What’s real, what are the details, what does it mean?  If I mentioned to you that 9.1% was a generalized number and that there was more information hidden in there, what would you think? The truth is that unemployment for high school graduates is approximately 14%.  On the flip side, unemployment for college graduates is somewhere around 4.5%.  The numbers look very different now don’t they?

Or how about this? There are certain fields that are hiring like crazy and booming these days, bad economy or not. Healthcare is banging away under harsh government deadlines while Information Technology is keeping up its healthy hiring habits.  The energy sector is bringing all kinds of people on board and getting government breaks for doing so, particularly in the fields of green energy or energy research.  But that information isn’t out there.  That information isn’t always easy to find. While people are out there looking and panicking, there is information at hand that can help to save a job, save a family and save an economy.

There are avenues for people to help themselves and find help.  There are industries out there that are still looking for employees.  But our newscasters, pundits and political leaders can only tell us that the sky is falling.  It’s time for a change.

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