Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Diary Of A Layoff #13: How Demoralizing Is The Job Market? Let's Talk

Man, it's with mixed feelings that I resurrect the series of blog posts I titled Diary Of A Layoff beginning in March 2009 (last in the series was written 18 months ago). I know we usually try and have a fine if not slightly randy time on The Smoking Nun, but for the moment, pour yourself a drink and let's chat one on one.

Last Saturday, I spent three hours applying for open-position jobs—from several NYC editor gigs that match my qualifications to a tee (as I've done for 2+ years; interviews: 0), down the line to freelance, copy editing and temp writing positions... down to seasonal or part-time retail work down to bathing critters at Petland (I did request "no reptiles"). I'm actually serious. Who can afford pride at this point?

It has been two-and-a-half years since I was laid off from my beautiful 14-year dream job at Billboard magazine, and one year since my rewarding temporary position with the Census came to an end. On the bright side, I am fortunate that I have never once dipped into savings since March 2009, thanks to two unemployment claims, rewarding $405 a week, and a prudent standard of living that probably makes the average college student look like Donald Trump.

Ironically, this weekend's job hunt happened one day before 1) I received notice that I must re-qualify for New York's discounted (read: low-income) health insurance plan—which requires that you've held a taxable job in the past year (I have not) 2) two days before I discovered that unemployment benefits have reached their grand finale and 3) today's harrowing Census stats revealing that 46.2 million or nearly one in six Americans or 15.6% of the adult population now live in "poverty," the most since tracking began in 1959. In addition, those without health insurance has reached 49.9 million, a 20-year high.

Is it getting warm in here or what?

We already know that national unemployment remains locked at 9.1%, with a big fat ZERO jobs added in August 2011. With the 13.97 million officially unemployed, an additional 4.8 million are not counted, because they've stopped looking for work or lost benefits. Hey, that's me!

So on Saturday, I also spent 40 minutes filling out a hopelessly complicated online application at Macy's, where I attached my resume and answered scores of queries that made it clear I have a four-year college degree, countless years of experience dealing with the public and decades of career knowledge. And yes, I love people, smile a lot and never ever get angry.

I was hardly selective, checking boxes for *seasonal *part-time *full-time *day *night *weekend *holiday and *overnight openings—from commission sales floor positions to overnight stocking. Today I received a response from Macy's. I was informed that the company does "not have an appropriate position that matches your experience and skill set." By all means let me share (click on image to see email)...

Now then... how am I supposed to maintain hope that I will (ever) be employed again? And might I wonder aloud, at the age of 48 (you hush now, okay?)...
I am fortunate to have a skill set that is portable—words—and have been moderately successful at writing artist bios, CD liner notes and ghost writing book proposals in the past couple years to insure I have enough $$ to come out of hiding to network, connect with friends and visit my 80-something-year-old folks in Virginia. But to call it a living is a bit of an overstatement.

As a self-insured unemployed individual, I'm looking at health insurance premiums escalating from $321 a month to $700+, if I desire anything more than catastrophic care (those who believe Obama's health plan is a farce, please take note). My expenses as a New Yorker are $2,765 a month to the dollar (I'm lucky that my apartment mortgage is paid off)... so when you subtract my now-expired unemployment benefits of $1,620, that leaves me with a mighty deficit.

I am trying, believe me. But my freelance jobs total less than $6,000 for the year so far. And if Macy's says they have "no appropriate position" for me... then who does... and when?