Chronic Unemployment – Some Context

In 1973, a 23-year-old college graduate, oldest of seven children, was discharged from the military and sent home due to the death of his father. To add to his challenges of helping with his family was that the domestic U.S. was in a recession…. a bad one!

His journey of seeking employment was convoluted: newspaper advertisements, employment firms, Veterans Administration, networks, friends… The search lasted for over 6 months, during which the frustration, powerlessness and anxiety led this person to formulate the opinion that wanting to work, needing to work, and not being able to was among the worst of human conditions. Ultimately he found a job!   

This recession with domestic unemployment hovering at approximately 10% and globally just as serious has created many victims who are trying valiantly to cope with similar circumstances. This situation is more difficult to understand because the root cause of this recession was not oil, it was greed, stupidity and carelessness.  If you doubt this, read the business and consumer press, or just tune in CNBC.

As we reassure ourselves that the recession is ending and the horizon is more optimistic, we remain mindful that unemployment remains high, and that the quiet suffering of those trying to cope is very real.

Recent studies have indicated that those “above a certain age, with general management skills, from certain sectors” will remain unemployed for at least 6 months and likely “underemployed” for an extended period even when work is found.

There are many stories about how people are coping: but spirits flag and reality is daunting. The end of this state for many is still further down the road than desired. 

There is a movie out now, “Up In The Air.” Those of us who travel extensively for a living are hearing a lot “you remind me of George Clooney even though you look like a frog.”

Yet as the 23-year-old mentioned above and having an “Up In The Air” lifestyle for over 30 years as a consultant, I identified not with Clooney character – but with those who were being displaced. 

To those whom are still navigating to the next stop on their professional journey, be advised I, and those whom during our careers have been in similar circumstances, will silently applaud your eventual success.


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