Well the job numbers didn’t turn out as good as expected (only 103,000 new jobs in December) but the unemployment numbers have dropped a bit – down to 9.4% (from 9.8%) and while some of the drop might be due to drop outs – people giving up on even looking for jobs (I’ve never understood that but I guess if you have a wage earning spouse you could just forget going back to work), some of it is because a small number of people actually found jobs.
That small number isn’t enough to raise hopes across the unemployed. We still need to add 450,000 new jobs each and every month for the next five years to return to full employment. According to an article on CNN detailing a research report prepared by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University and titled “The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures,” the unemployed have exhausted their financial reserves, are not optimistic about finding a job in the next year, fear they will never regain the financial position they had before the recession and have little faith in the government’s ability to help them (that includes both parties).
Another recent NPR story, discussing the same research report, noted that 26% of the unemployed workers who were part of the study in August 2009 had found work by November 2010 when they were re-contacted by the researchers. The researchers report “40 percent of those who have found jobs who have told us they’ve had to change fields entirely. About half of them have taken a pay cut or cut in benefits, and more than half of those who have taken new jobs say that they’ve taken them to get by rather than their next start on a new career.”
We are seeing what is likely to be a permanent downward economic mobility – the antithesis of the American Dream and a rare occurrence in American history. Even if the unemployed find work, according to this survey as a group they feel “they are going to have to adapt to a new lifestyle and give up many things that they consider desirable and even some things that they considered essential.”
Even my current optimism, based less on any concrete beneficial changes in my life, and more on the relief of some daily pressures, doesn’t extend to the long term. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to regain the financial position I held 2 or 3 years ago before a complicated series of events sent us down this road. I doubt that I’ll ever own my own (brick and mortar) home again. I don’t have any retirement funds left, or any health insurance. Thinking about the future paralyzes me. We live a day to day life – but I guess that’s why I can sometimes be happy in the face of all the adversity.
Today we rearranged the closet, moving all hanging clothes to the shower rod (since we don’t use the shower – can’t as the tub is always full of laundry bags or trash and recycling bags) to make room for another organizer with bins for my middle daughter’s clothes. We sorted through the books on the bookshelf and made space for her little bin (12x12x12). We have started moving things from one storage unit (which leaks – the last straw was going there on Christmas Eve to retrieve presents and discovering that the week’s rain had flooded the unit) to another larger yet cheaper and closer storage center. It’s a good opportunity to pare down our possessions (again) and we have donated a box of children’s books to the school and another of Mom’s books to the friends of the library. Several bags of outgrown clothing and kitchen utensils we make do without went to the thrift store. Then we set up a little shelf of things the kids might want access to so we can easily shift books and toys from storage to the trailer and back again as interests and needs change. Now everything doesn’t feel so ‘lost’ and out of reach.
Between that change and the additional outside activities we are all feeling more positive even though the future still seems less than less than hopeful.