Anyway, as we were selecting a couple of colors from the tee-shirt shelf, I overheard a woman who appeared to be in her late forties or early fifties talking to her friend. I was not trying to hear; the woman was speaking rather loudly. But her conversation interested me nonetheless.
She was telling her friend that after several trips to the doctor, her doctor told her she had anxiety, and asked her why she was so stressed lately. Because, the woman told her doctor, I'm about to lose my job. We're being laid off. And I've worked there for twelve years, and I'm single, so I have to find work to support myself.
As her friend made supportive comments, we finished up our shirt selections and left. But I kept thinking about the woman--I couldn't get her words, and the anguish in her voice, out of my mind.
There are just so many people in this situation right now. There are those who have been unemployed so long that they've given up hope of finding work. There are those who used to have decent, career-level jobs who have had to settle for underemployment at entry-level jobs with few to no benefits; there are young adults who can't get those entry-level jobs because those jobs are being filled by people with ten or twenty years' career experience.
Some people think that because the media isn't focusing on the jobs news, that things aren't actually all that bad. The American news media may be ignoring the growing crisis of unemployment in America, but foreign media seems to have the stats--consider this article which lists six reasons why America's jobs are in a terrible state:
Read the other three reasons here.
1. The headline rate
The US economy added 69,000 jobs in May. The figure is awful all on its own. To cope with demographic shifts, the US needs to add more than 100,000 jobs a month just to hold steady. Three years into a "recovery", adding 69,000 jobs a month is truly depressing.
Between December and February, the economy added an average of 252,000 jobs each month. March (150,000) and April (115,000) numbers were not great, but OK. Until now...
2. Downward revisions
Perhaps the most depressing figures in May's jobs report actually belong to April. April's far from sparkly 115,000-strong jobs growth has now been revised down to 77,000. March's figures were cut from 154,000 to 143,000. In short, the present is weaker than expected and the past was worse than we thought.
3. Long-term unemployment
There are now 5.4 million people in the US who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, up from 5.1 million in April. The median duration of unemployment increased to 20.1 weeks from 19.4 weeks.
As we reported here, long-term unemployment is devastating for the people it affects, reducing not only their chances of finding work but their health and the future prospects of their children.
While our media talking heads act as though the Right Sort of people care only about whether or not Bill and Steve will finally be able to have their long-desired fairytale wedding in any state they'd like sometime this year, the real story of the real pain out there is being buried. But the people behind those awful unemployment numbers, the people out of work or barely scraping by on salaries too small to support families and pay debts, the people who can't find jobs and can't afford training and education for new careers as their old jobs are relentlessly outsourced or given away to H-1B workers, the college students drowning in student loans and unable to find jobs that pay much more than minimum wage, the people who have downsized and consolidated and simplified and belt-tightened as much as they can and are being told to do even more with even less--they're very real, and they are starting to express the sort of anguished despair I overheard from the woman in the store this weekend.
The growing crisis of unemployment in America is the story nobody wants to talk about--nobody except those swept up in that crisis. And I have a feeling they're about to start shouting too loudly to be ignored.