A Human Recession

“One in five American men aged 25 to 54 are unemployed”, announced Larry Summers at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  He went on to put our whole economic disaster into perspective when he said that the United States is experiencing a “statistical recovery and a human recession”. 

Unemployed?  Under-employed?  You are not alone.  Is help on the way?  I’m not so sure. 

I’ve seen economic devastation.  I lived and worked in Youngstown, Ohio in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  The steel mills closed.  Downtown Youngstown was gutted.  But no matter how bad it got, we all felt that neither Youngstown nor its inhabitants were doomed to failure.  There was no reason to give up. 

Our current economic downturn feels different. 

I keep eleven names in my appointment book.  This list grows daily.  These are the names of people who are unemployed.  These are not unskilled workers.  They are not semi-skilled.  They are professionals, people who have worked in their fields for twenty- plus years.  Office managers.  Computer specialists.  An attorney.  Make that twelve.  I just got off the phone with a pharmacist.  One guy was a territorial sales rep for the same company for over twenty-five years.  These people are experienced and highly qualified.  They are dying to work.  They are willing to settle for less.  They just want a job.  They want to go back to work. 

Last week I talked with a former business owner who is hoping to land a job as a $15 an hour secretary / receptionist.  The combination of the housing bust and the internet killed her industry.  She has no complaints.  There isn’t a drop of self-pity.  She simply needs a job. 

I connected one of my computer specialists to a possible employer on Friday.  Can I scratch him off my list?  Not yet. 

Many of us are defined, in part, by what we do for a living.  I certainly am.  Unemployed, these friends and clients are adrift.  It’s not just the money, though that is certainly important.  Their jobs are how they see themselves and how they contribute to the general good. 

We can’t wait for Washington.  We can’t wait for Columbus.  How about You?  Can you help someone land a job?