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I've noticed the media and politicians constantly harping on lost jobs and unemployment. I have a couple of interesting observations that come from my work analyzing commercial transportation stocks, suggesting that people who really want work can find it.

The trucking industry is currently desperately looking for people willing and able to drive trucks. Standards are not terribly high - no drugs, can do a few weeks of training, and can pass some exams that just about any literate semi-intelligent person should be able to pass. Driving a truck isn't a glamorous job, probably pays about $30k + a year, and the lifestyle isn't so great. But for people who say there are no jobs out there, this proves them wrong. If people didn't have welfare to fall back on, and had to get off their couches and off drugs to avoid starving, there wouldn't be a shortage of $30k/yr truck drivers.

Of greater interest to maybe a few people on this board, I'm hearing that the railroads are strongly increasing their recruiting for people working on trains. Union Pacific has been particularly desperate, with lots of older people retiring recently. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (a better managed operation) has been hiring too. Standards are higher for railroad employees, as are the rewards, as salaries for these kinds of workers appear to be well over $50K/yr and higher, health & retirement plans, the main downside being that new folks tend to get the worst hours, the most time away from home, etc.

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Agreed; there are plenty of jobs out there if you really want one. Plus, aren't unemployment rates actually pretty low by historical standards?

No. The current unemployment rate of 5.4% is just about average by historical standards. It is, however, relatively low compared to other major industrialized nations such as France, Germany and Italy, whose unemployment rates are around 10%.

You can read about the methodology of employment statistics on http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.tn.htm. The methodology reveals a lot about the accuracy and reliabilty of employment statistics, which are not overly inaccurate, but certainly not as precise (e.g. to the 0.1%) as the government would want us to believe.

Also, note that the unemployment rate is a NATIONAL average, so that the good economic conditions of some states are just about canceled by the declining ones--such as the "rust belt". Unemployment between states may vary by as much as 5%. For instance, Virginia has the lowest unemployment rate of 3.2%, whereas Alaska has a rate of 7.6%. The highest unemployment rate is 9.4%--in Puerto Rico. In the continental US, it is 7.9%--in Washington DC.

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  • 2 months later...

I've also read the following (which I intend to research myself too); does anyone know if it is true: The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percentage of those who are looking for work. A lot of people stopped looking for work after the 2000 "bust". They decided to do more college, or to use the down time to start a family, etc. They are going to come back into the workforce at some point, sending the unemployment % back up nearer 6%.

I figure that a good rule of thumb would be to look at the number of people who are employed as a percentage of the population of a certain age-range.

Any thoughts?

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I found some statistics on the site of the US Labor Dept. that indicate the the :participation rate" of all people above 16 years old has fluctuated between about 66% and 69% between 1994 and now. We are indeed at the low end right now, but were also around this point in 1994. I could not find statistics for before that.

I also found this article on the web that calculated what the unemployment rate would be if the participation rate had not fallen after the year 2000.

I think there is a "qualitative" aspect to employment that is not captured by all the statistics. From my personal experience, the employed people around me are far were far less sure of their continued employment last year than they were three years before that. Now, they are beginning to be a little more sure that if they lose their jobs they can get another that pays about the same.

All this does not detract from the main point of the thread that there are jobs out there that are way, way better than welfare.

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I've also read the following (which I intend to research myself too); does anyone know if it is true: The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percentage of those who are looking for work. A lot of people stopped looking for work after the 2000 "bust". They decided to do more college, or to use the down time to start a family, etc. They are going to come back into the workforce at some point, sending the unemployment % back up nearer 6%.

I figure that a good rule of thumb would be to look at the number of people who are employed as a percentage of the population of a certain age-range.

Any thoughts?

Yes, you are correct in that the official unemployment numbers attempt to put a finger on the number of people who are actually looking for work. What they try to do is take out the people who quit looking for work, are students, etc since they are not "actively" unemployed. They are basically put into a slot of people who are doing something other than 1) working 2)doing something else (education, retirement, etc) 3) everyone else.

It's that everyone else that there is so much debate. These numbers do not include people on unemployment roles from the state because supposedly they are engaged in trying to find another job or retraining. If you are a full time student then you usually can't qualify for unemployment "benefits" even if you were working full time and got laid off. The "discouraged" workers are basically people who quit looking and go off benefits generally find jobs that are off book or live off of other people.

Although it would seem to make sense just taking the number of people there are and dividing by the number employed, you run into a problem. It's mostly how employment is defined. There are people who are are full time parents, people who are "kept" by other people, work off books (any number of labor, sex industry related jobs, anything less than legal, etc) that would mess with the numbers.

Just like GDP calculations, they really can't be fully accurate. Basically most econists assume a fudge factor when they run their numbers. Everyone applies a different fudge factor hence two economists looking at the exact same nubmers come up with different answers. Still, I think most macro projections are wrong since they are all based on some pretty flawed premises.

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A year or so ago I had a literature teacher mention the high unemployment numbers in Arkansas (where I live) and how the federal government should do something to fix the problem. He said the problem was caused by outsourcing of jobs to other countries. I pointed out the massive nursing shortage in Arkansas. That we actually import nurses from other nations (outsourcing them) by the hundreds because the unemployed in Arkansas are unwilling or unable to get a two year degree to become an LPN. X-ray technicians, phlebotomists (the vampires who do nothing but draw blood for examinations and transfusions) and other skilled medical positions were unfilled. Also there is a shortage of anyone with a college degree. Skilled and qualified people were needed everywhere but very few people in Arkansas met the requirements. It is not a lack of jobs but a lack of will to gain the skills necessary for the jobs. He immediately halted the conversation because time was needed to cover the story we were supposed to be discussing, but the look on his face showed that he was only changing the conversation because he had just lost an argument he started, and the other students knew which of us were right. Earlier that semester the same guy had asked “What’s really so bad about socialism?” Unfortunately I had not been exposed to Ayn Rand at the time. I know the answer now.

High unemployment numbers do not necesarily mean that their is a lack of jobs, but a lack of useful skills among the unemployed.

On an unrelated note, the immigration law was just changed this month so that nurses will no longer get fast track immigration processing. The people here have jobs they are unwilling to do but do not want foreigners to perform. Overseas there are foreigners willing to work who do not have access to the jobs. The teacher got what he wanted, the federal government stepped in and stopped outsourcing, but they stopped our importing of skilled labor. As a result we are about to face a massive nursing shortage on top of our teacher shortage and industry shortage.

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and if all else fails, the Army reserve and national guard have TRIPLED their benefits package because they too are in desperate supply of people. The fact that people do not want to fight is horsepucky, because you can opt for a non-combative role, or a member of the military's civilian corp.

John Stossel (he's the man) did a funny interview on this subject. He went to a bum who was holding a "will work for food" sign. the conversation went like this:

Stossel: would you flip burgers at BurgerKing?

Bum: nahh, it's too monotonous

Stossel: well then would you consider a job in construction?

Bum: I can't, my back

Stossel: would you at least be able to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?

Bum: I don't think anyone should be subjected to that amount of work

This is why I stopped caring about the fate of bums.

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I'm planning on getting out of the military when my current term of enlistment is up (2 years). All that I keep hearing from my family and friends is "Don't do it. You'll never find work anywhere out there."

I keep sending my parents articles and proof of the different industries out there who are in desperate need of help. They just seem to ignore it and accept what the government is telling them about the unemployment rate.

I'm getting out because I'm ready to move on and make the next step in my life. The military has been great to me, but I'm ready to get out and do more. If I have to scrape up some survival money in the mean time doing jobs that bums on the street are too lazy to do, then so be it. I will get to where I want to be in life one way or another.

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...All that I keep hearing from my family and friends is "Don't do it.  You'll never find work anywhere out there."  ..

The government number says that about 5% of those who want work cannot find it. Many of these people are rejecting jobs because the pay is less than they want. They simply decide to wait. Often, this is completely rational. Going to work might mean putting the kids is day care, spending money on commuting and work-clothes, and other incidental costs. For some, the time spent working at an extremely low paying job might be better used learning something that can then get them a better paying job.

So, to answer the question about job-availability in the abstract: yes, there are jobs out there for every one -- if they're willing to accept the salary & other terms.

I will given you a real-life example of "job available if the price is right". This happened to a close friend.

She had a baby and decided to take 5 years off work, leaving a software job that paid $70,000 a year. Five years later, when she wanted to get back to work, it was the year 2003. The worst of the bust was over, but the job market was still quite "tough". She realized that she would not be considered "up to date" in her subject-area.

So, she studied about the latest versions of that particular software and then passed an exam which "certified" her. She then sent out lots of resumes, without a single response. Recruiting firms were not interested. Knowing that she had a better chance if she spoke to someone face-to-face, she decided to try job-fairs. That "kinda" worked: in that a couple of recruiters were convinced enough to take her one step forward, but no further. The next level of interviewer or resume-reviewer would say that five years of staying at home had left her

unable to compete against the other resumes. [Aside: BTW, this situation has changed today, and the number and quality of resumes submitted for any particular software-job has started to decline.]

After a few months of being told that a "5-year gap" was too much, she heard about a company that did some non-profit work on the side. They were a business, but they also did pro-bono software development for non-profits. They provided a part-time manager, the office-space and the tools, but staffed these projects with a group of volunteers. So, she volunteered there, and began to do that (3 half-days a week). Working there, she clearly stood-out. Many of the other volunteers had almost no computer software experience. Also, her work-ethic was clearly superior. One day, the manager told her that they could give her a tiny (1-week) paid assignment if she was willing to work full-time for 5 days. She did, and it went well. After that, they would give her small paid projects from time to time.

One day, she found a job advertisement that was in her particular specialization, but was extremely low-paying. She applied and was called for the interview. Remember, that her resume now showed a few months of more recent (albiet mostly voluntary) job-experience. The hiring firm was a real dive -- extremely low salary to all, and very poor work conditions. A non-objectivist might even call it a sweat shop. At the rates they were willing to pay, only the desparate were signing up. Most were treating it as a place to wait while they sought a "real job". She got the job -- getting paid just $16,000 a year.

Finally, with a year's worth of experience under her belt, she landed a consulting assignment which paid pretty well. Three months into that, the client offered her a job at $75,000 a year.

The point of this story is that one can get a job if one sets a goal and then takes steps that bring that goal closer. So, a job at McDonald's could be a starting point or it could be a waste of time. It depends on where you are and where you want to go.

Good luck in your endeavors!

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  • 4 weeks later...

felicity,

Very good story, and not uncommon in the IT world right now...no matter what reports say it is hard to find good people.

Being in the IT field myself that is something I understand. When I saw the SpaceShipOne launch, I decided I could no longer serve tables (what I was doing up until 8 months ago) and went into one of those firms you were talking about. I took a job making 10.50 an hour working within a warehouse boxing and unboxing computers. A few weeks later I was hired on as a computer technician and now...gosh 6 months later, I am working for myself. I quit the job as a computer technician when the two best people I had ever worked with were fired for not being well-rounded enough, I couldn't work for people who would rather curry favor to their friends and ignore the skill on their teams. I am making as much simply writing this note on the forum as I did working for two hours in the warehouse, I also hired on one of the people who quit-- and it seems that in the next year or so he should be ready to quit working for me and go out on his own. If you have the skill, the ability, and the drive-- you can find what you are looking for.

edited for silly typos

Edited by PennDrago
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There's a humorous article on the "Joel On Software" site that talks about how many IT employers say they are taking only the top 1% of programmers: because, for instance, they get 100 resumes for every job-opening. Who is hiring the other 99%!

I don't know from IT, but we've been trying to hire software engineers into my group at Cisco for the past month or so and we're having an amazingly hard time finding people even minimally competent. It's almost scary...

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I don't know from IT, but we've been trying to hire software engineers into my group at Cisco for the past month or so and we're having an amazingly hard time finding people even minimally competent.  It's almost scary...

I'm a software engineer. Where do I apply for these positions? :P

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IT? Software Engineering?

The Tissue Bank where I work needs people terribly . . . we've never had fewer than 15 positions posted on our job board and we have an unbelievably low turnover rate. Sadly we can't find anyone because our openings require people that actually KNOW SOMETHING.

We also have a godawful antique Stone-Age piece-of-junk database system that we could use a hand with, too.

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I'm a software engineer.  Where do I apply for these positions?  :dough:

I hit your website and dug up the copy of your resume you have there. You're probably not a good match for what we're looking for -- my group is writing embedded management and control software in C and C++; your background is in information systems and web applications. The required knowledge bases are almost orthogonal.

Edited by khaight
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