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And, yes, I DO take it personally: The unemployment problem of the highly skilled
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Monday, January 21, 2008

The unemployment problem of the highly skilled

the wapo deigns to acknowledge the problem - on page one, no less - of the large number of highly skilled folks floating around out there unable to find jobs...
An unusually large share of workers have been out a job for more than six months even as overall unemployment has remained low, a little-noted weakness in the labor market that analysts said threatens to intensify the impact of the unfolding economic downturn.

In November, nearly 1.4 million people -- almost one in five of those unemployed -- had been jobless for at least 27 weeks, the juncture when unemployment insurance benefits end for most recipients. That is about twice the level of long-term unemployment before the 2001 recession.

The problem is ensnaring a broader swath of workers than before. Once concentrated among manufacturing workers and those with little work history, education or skills, long-term unemployment is growing most rapidly among white-collar and college-educated workers with long work experience, studies have found, making the problem difficult for policymakers to address even as it grows more urgent.

the problem the wapo reports on didn't just appear... it's been around for a number of years... when i was shown the door by united airlines one month after 9/11, along with roughly 10,000 of my fellow employees, i was extremely fortunate to move right into another job... that job turned out to be a delusion which i nonetheless managed to maintain for a year, at which time i was fully at the mercy of the job market...

during a two month period in late 2003, i threw myself into getting a job, a search that included over 80 job apps, 2 telephone interviews, one in-person interview, and one job offer to be a $7.80 an hour customer service rep in an airline reservation call center which, needless to say, i declined... to give you an idea of where my head was at the time, i was actually in discussion to enroll in a school that trains over-the-road truck drivers... i landed a paid contract overseas early in 2004, and it was shortly thereafter that i made the decision to no longer seek full-time work, and instead pursue independent contractor opportunities, primarily outside the u.s...

that strategy has worked reasonably well up until my current dry spell which has continued, with a couple of small exceptions, for over a year now... with my head hung low, i almost took a full-time administrative job with a university last october, but the cosmos intervened and saved me from a mind-numbing, five-day, forty-hour, chained-to-a-desk workweek, buried in organizational bureaucracy, politics, and torpor... were it not for my son and daughter-in-law who have lovingly laid out a permanent welcome mat and kept the light on, and the va from which i receive an outstanding level of health care, i would be up the proverbial unsanitary tributary without the proper means of propulsion... to say that i am deeply grateful for my blessings would be a serious understatement...

my former colleagues tell similar stories, and all of us seem to bounce from pillar to post, wondering if we are going to be able to continue to get enough income to remain self-sufficient and be able to cover what will very likely be our rising health care expenses... an additional exacerbating factor now is our age, a disqualifying trait no prospective employer in his or her right mind would admit, but which we all know is a black mark... yet another one is that we are all highly OVER-qualified, a fact that flies in the face of the desire of today's employers to hire younger, bright-eyed, inexperienced, MUCH more malleable, and decidedly CHEAPER folks who, when someone in authority says "jump," will say "how high?" if for no other reason than fear of losing their jobs...

without breaking my arm patting myself on the back, i think it's a national tragedy to have so many seasoned, experienced, talented - dare i say wise? - professionals sitting mostly idle in the labor pool, particularly at a time when our country is beset with problems that could really use a little mature thinking...

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