USA Today’s Susan Page recently interviewed Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. She asked Perez about a paradox in the current economic recovery: unemployment is down with little increase in wages. Perez said that there is still “slack” in the market, which would mean that unemployment would have to go even lower to drive increased wages. He also discussed a White House Summit on Workers, which will take place on October 7, 2015. This sounds like good news, but what results will it bring? Perez captured the general mood of American workers this way: “They’re hard and falling behind.” Page cast this as a “disparity between the wealthy and the middle of the workforce.” I would respectfully disagree. From the Occupy protests to the ongoing Fight for 15, low wage working people are voicing their frustration and demanding justice in a way that the middle class is not. That said, most American (I’d guess 70-80%) are feeling anxiety and a lack of security. President Obama put it best when he said, “America needs a raise.”
USA Today explores unemployment by the numbers and by looking behind the numbers. As author Susan Page writes in her lead sentence, “The jobless have lost more than their jobs.” Based on a detailed survey that the paper conducted along with Gallup, Page breaks down different groups of unemployed. At the same time, she tells stories that remind us that each of the 14 million unemployed American has a complex, personal dilemma caused by jobless.
Some findings of the survey were striking. 62% of the unemployed have not collected any benefits. 21% have needed medical care for stress or a related condition. More surprising, 58% of the unemployed have applied for 10 jobs or less since being laid off. This number is troubling. Finding a job is like making a sale: You have to knock on doors. If people aren’t applying for jobs (and networking), the result will be predictable and depressing.
This article and the accompanying poll results are very interesting. At the same time, I will once again preach the 100% rule: Do you have a job? Do you have the job you want? Those are the only questions that matter. News stories and commentary help us understand the big picture, but have little to do with our situation as individuals. Don’t get put off by scary stories or scarier statistics.