Wednesday, May 13, 2009

4.4 million People Were Hired in January

Notwithstanding the Dow Jones nosedive today, the last few months have offered indications that the stock market is showing something slightly better than a flat line. The cover of this week's New Yorker even takes a somewhat Lord of the Rings-ish approach to offering glimpses of hope for future days. (Anyone who has seen that visual of a construction worker perched atop the steel-beam frame of a skyscraper and gazing thoughtfully at a fluttering butterfly nearby may recall Gandalf's visitation by an innocent-seeming moth as he's stranded at the top of Saruman's tower with nary a friend in sight.)

But unless you've been asleep for the past two years, you'll assumedly know by now that there is no one indicator of the health of the economy and while the Dow Jones may be up nearly 2,000 points since scraping rock bottom back in early March, several other "cheerful" reminders that we are no longer out of Mirkwood wax profusely. Today's disappointing retail sales report from April (indirect author of the Dow Jones plummet), escalating housing foreclosures and last week's Department of Labor report limning the more than 500,000 lost jobs in April alone vouch for our continued descent into an economic Dante's Inferno.

That's why I really appreciated a rich-media presentation by Forbes Magazine from several months ago called "How to Find a Job". It's been sitting in my e-mail inbox for some time (sent to me by I can't even remember who) but highlighting this very distinct fact: "4.4 million people were hired in January." That's according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wow. I mean, wow. Who'd've thunk it? Of course the report explains that this statistic is like the equivalent of a lone, uplifting jester prancing around a broader, gloomier and more harrowing Shakespearean tragedy of statistics riveting audiences with endless numbers of lost jobs and an increasing percentage of unemployment, leading to more competition, naturally, for every available position.

But the article does so to make a point, which is that finding a job these days requires a few key elements: 1) stop sending out massive amounts of resumes; 2) be creative; 3) network like crazy. I will not go so far as to call the 4.4 million statistic "green shoots"; aside from its trite, overused and frankly, dumb, phrasing, green shoots will not get at the heart of what unemployed folk such as myself must recognize in the coming months and, okay, I'll say it, possibly years.

In a BusinessWeek article from last week, "Jobs: What a Rebound Will Look Like", Moira Herbst suggests that temp hiring will lead the way. It makes sense. Coincidentally, a friend in New York who'd lost her job in early March just began a temp-to-hire position yesterday. That could be what the new job market will look like in the near-term future: a slow ride back up. The economy has been burned, like, really badly these past couple years and investments will crawl back only slowly. And yet, there were those 4.4 million jobs back in January, according to Forbes.

Everyone has a theory on how the employment market will shape up in the near-term. Why blog about it? Why add one more voice? Forbes and BusinessWeek are about as reputable as you can get. What I especially like about the Forbes article is its emphasis on doing more than what job seekers typically do, which is sending out resumes and which, thanks to a glowing economy over the past 20 years, has been usually sufficient to win the prize. Well, I'll tell you, this country is down on its luck right now, and if job-seekers have to step outside the box a little, stand a little taller, think a little more creatively and entrepreneurially to get back in the game, then so be it. I'd hate to think America is an outdated old spinster on its way out to pasture, and if it takes a little more octane and some extraordinary motivation on the part of employment seekers to snag one of those 4.4 million jobs then so be it. We've been lazy for far too long.

No comments: