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Thread: The New Normal (This Is A Thread About The Economy)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    The New Normal (This Is A Thread About The Economy)

    Yesterday I was with my Human Resources Director, sitting at a table in a big Toledo CBD building, part of a "job fair" type event. The event was much-publicized. The participating companies all had job openings. My company had three: Silk Screen Machine Operator, Order Processing (Warehouse), and Quality Assurance. We took 75 blank employment applications with us, guesstimating the turnout. Our guesstimate was very wrong. Very, very wrong.

    The event was supposed to be 2 hours.....it lasted 3 hours because of the huge crowd trying to get into the facility. We had to ask the folks sponsoring the event (a local non-profit agency that helps people find work) to print many additional copies of the employment application. We probably had nearly 200 applicants and more than that stopped at our table to inquire about the positions. I was surpised (maybe not so much) at the number of people who asked if we "hire felons". (We do, if it is a child support felony or if 7 years have passed.)

    Of all the applicants, only a few are worth a second look (based on their applications and/or resumes). As the sweat seeped from my monkey-suited suit-and-tie body and I viewed the long line of potential hires lined-up at our table I couldn't help but think.....this is "the new normal".
    _____

    If you don't have a high school diploma (or a GED) it is hard to find work.
    If you would struggle with a very-simple math test, we won't be hiring you. (Indictment of our education system?!)
    If you have a resume with crossed-off verbage or words spelled wrong, we won't be hiring you.
    Unemployment will get better but "the new normal" will probably be 6% to 9%.
    Many, many families are now forced to be 2-income to 4-income families. (Low pay scales, part-time, lack of benefits.)
    Home ownership is not likely to rebound. It is at its' lowest point in many years.

    Accentuating the positive: About 93% of those that "want to work" are working.

    Final NOTE: No matter who is president.....we are now at (and going to stay at) "the new normal".

    What say you?

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Good points, BUN.

    The blue-collar assembly line jobs that required little intellectual skill have largely disappeared with automation. The work that used to be done by 100 welders in an automobile assembly plant is done by 10-20 operators monitoring robots. Even in offices, the workforce has shrunk as offices of typists/wordprocessors, stenographers, and file clerks have been replaced by 1 admin assistant, a PC, and various technical devices and software. Even in construction work, employers put a premimum on people who have skills and the ability to learn new ones.

    At the same time, we seem to have a lot of people with college degrees and lots of "soft skills" but not much in the way of "technical expertise" who can't find jobs. I don't think that's going to change soon. Meanwhile, college grads with techncial degrees like engineers, computer programmers, financial analysts, nurses, etc have found jobs and promotions even in the depths of the current recession. This isn't just true in places like NYC and Chicago, but also in WNY and western PA.

    All in all, I think that we're seeing a growing divide in our economy between the technically skilled and the technically unskilled. Whether you're blue-collar or white-collar, workers need to have technical expertise to find jobs. This isn't something that just occurred, but the current recession has made the contrast sharper. I work at a community college, and our vocational programs, both the 2 year degree and the shorter certificate programs, are "full up", and the number of "nontraditionals", ie, older students, has increased significantly as people look to learn technical skills to make themselves more appealing to employers. They "get" what the new normal is.

    I will just comment on math education, which has been the bane of many students' existence for half a century or more. I'm not sure why this is, as I never had a problem understanding how numbers worked or with understanding the principles of algebra, geometry, and higher math. I think it's just the way my brain is wired. I think that people who really struggled understanding math and managed to figure it out would probably make better math teachers than people like me for whom math was always easy. They would better understand why their students struggle and be better able to devise ways to help them. Unfortunately, just about every math teacher in the world is from the pool of people like me who has some natural affinity for mathematics.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    I picked up the Atlantic Monthly for the first time in my life because of Adam Davidson's article, "Making It in America."

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...-america/8844/

    It does a pretty good job of illustrating the difficulty of increased employment in the U.S.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    A portion of the job seekers are those who apply merely to satisfy unemployment comp rules. Other than those, I agree with Bear and Linda.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    The mobility myth.

    "WHY HAS mobility slowed down or stagnated in the United States? Thereís no real academic consensus on this point, but the lingering suspicion is that itís linked to the trend toward growing income inequality that began in the late í70s and continues to this day. During the American industrial revolution, growing income inequality was indeed the price the United States paid for growing economic mobility. In the present era, though, income inequality may be choking off opportunity. The oft-repeated metaphor is that as the ladderís rungs grow farther apart, the ladder becomes more difficult to climb."

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/...ion-divergence
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  6. #6
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    The position I now hold was circulated twice to hire someone. The first round brought 50 resumes, about 10 that were pertinent to the position. Around 5 candidates were interviewed and there were various reasons why none of them passed muster. The most notable one responded to the question of why he was looking for employment, "Well I am currently under federal investigation for misappropriation of funds along with several others at my current employer." Yeah buddy, you aren't getting hired. I applied during the second offering and was offered an interview immediately. I inquired as to why the position had remained vacant for some time and my boss was frank and said she immediately tossed aside resumes with misspellings, poor grammar, incomplete information, and no cover letter. She said if someone couldn't be bothered to get that right she wondered what else they weren't going to be bothered with.

    We've been interviewing for a good position recently and after weeding through and interviewing several applicants it was narrowed down to two people. One was a fresh college grad that didn't have a lot of hard experience for the job but had a lot of enthusiasm and the basic elements needed. The other was someone with 10+ years of experience but after perusing the Interwebs but it looked like his "consulting" business had the potential to eat into our time and he had run several political campaigns which can be a hindrance at times. Our decision was easy when a current employee had lunch with a friend with the experienced candidate and basically said he was lazy and had to be goaded into completing his work in a timely manner. That info was shared with my boss who decided against him.

    I've seen a lot of folks that torpedo their chances at getting an interview:

    Crappy resume with misspellings and grammatical errors
    No cover letter
    Unexplained gaps in employment
    Showing up in too casual attire when applying
    Social media outlets that are open for viewing and have questionable items on them
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    In support of Kjel's post on poor candidates for jobs, that seems to be commonplace around here, and Jamestown, NY is NOT some boom town by any means. I have a good friend who works at a local manufacturer, and they can't find enough quality people to hire for manufacturing jobs that require only a HS degree/GED, a clean drug test, the intelligence to follow directions, and the ability to show up for work on time. Some people are their own worst enemy.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  8. #8
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Some people are their own worst enemy.
    So very true, I know someone who always wonders why he doesn't get any callbacks from interviews. This guy is older and looking at more industrial positions. He has a rather brash personality and is very opinionated. He feels that many of the positions he is applying for are "under him". Because of this he won't shave or dress up for interviews. He feels that his sterling personality and resume will make him irresistible to employers. I have tried to explain to him that he needs to play the game if he wants to stand a chance of nabbing a posiiton.

    Linda_D, I also agree with you on the increasing need to have techincal skills to be really marketable in this economy. I am very grateful that my planning program was very hands-on and technically based. That strong start coupled with working in positions where I had tangibile acheivements have made me fairly marketable whenever I look for a new position. This last position change, I applied for at least 10 different positions and was offered interviews for at least 7 of them.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    In support of Kjel's post on poor candidates for jobs, that seems to be commonplace around here, and Jamestown, NY is NOT some boom town by any means. I have a good friend who works at a local manufacturer, and they can't find enough quality people to hire for manufacturing jobs that require only a HS degree/GED, a clean drug test, the intelligence to follow directions, and the ability to show up for work on time. Some people are their own worst enemy.
    I was talking to a person on the workforce development board here and it's literally the same way. Failing drug tests and attendance issues were the biggest reasons cited as to why people weren't getting those jobs. I know there's talk at the state level of eliminating unemployment benefits for people caught in those situations but I'm honestly not sure if that will even begin to address the issue. People will still do stupid stuff like that regardless of the consequences.

    The people I'm actually concerned about in this economy are older blue collar people in more technical positions. After 50, your health becomes a liability and your skills become questionable compared to younger individuals. Decades of experience in a technical field may not be an asset when there's the assumption that younger people are generally much better with technology. At least with soft skills, their value doesn't seem to decline as you get older. Either way though, there are a ton of people that were nearing retirement that will have difficulty reaching it since no one will hire them due to age.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    The people who study motivation have a top three for business of all sorts :

    1) Earned autonomy
    2) Coworker training (our policy was that you dropped everything to train, no exceptions)
    3) The golden rule

    And three un-motivators :

    1) The mission statement
    2) The work ethic
    3) Claims of being a meritocracy
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  11. #11
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North View post
    If you would struggle with a very-simple math test, we won't be hiring you. (Indictment of our education system?!)
    I truly believe our education system has failed many people. It is hard for a child to want to learn when they aren't motivated by their parents to do so and/or when the material is presented poorly. I'm not sure about everyone else, but school was horrendously boring for me. I managed to do very well despite this fact, but only because my parents refused to let me do otherwise. Many kids do not have that kind of motivation at home. Once I went to college, that changed a bit, but realistically the bulk of the material and classes were still tedious and boring, rather than educational and enlightening.

    It is a cultural and social issue in my opinion. We are in this dangerous loop in our education system where kids are being taught part "how to be an American" and part "job skills" (many schools are teaching outdated information in this area in particular) and very little "how to be an intelligent, problem solving, inquisitive human being". To me, education should be about the advancement of human knowledge and understanding, not how to prepare for the job market and knowing the names of former politicians (former Presidents, etc.), though these points are also important to a degree.

    We shouldn't substitute true knowledge and learning for job market skills, or we end up with a mass of worker bees in place of entrepreneurial and intelligent human beings. I think this is the case with our current system, which is why we see a glut of seemingly unintelligent and lazy people.

    On that note, I completely agree BUN. This is the new normal, but it is also something that has been repeated throughout history -- a cycle of poor education and greed. Education is the key to correcting this course. It is not in the best interest of those who own the economy and the government (and thus the schools) to have a mass of intelligent people running around out there asking questions and prodding into affairs.
    Occupy Your Brain!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Interesting thread. In response the the general thread title topic, I would say that America had unrealistic expectations of what normal was during the late 90's and early 2000's and we won't be seeing anything like that anytime in the near future and maybe even our lifetimes. There is also a definite shift that has taken place in the last decade or so in the American economy where capital is more of a determinant to profit than is labor. That is to say, people are making money and businesses are profitable based entirely on financial transactions. Whole companies exist and are profitable even though they produce absolutely nothing. That is a recipe for long term unemployment.

    However, as far as where this thread has headed, I am of the general opinion that lack of qualified applicants is most closely related to unrealistic expectations from employers. I can't tell you how many times in my travels and job searches I have come across announcements stating they want 5-10 years experience, preferably a masters, and other stuff and the salary starts at 40k. I also take exception to the whole drug testing thing. I know a lot of really hard working smart stoners . But realistically I know a lot of people who prefer not to work for employers who so willingly violate their right to privacy.

    The places where I have worked that are good places to work, well thought of and pay a good salary and have competitive benefits have generally never had problems getting qualified applicants. The places that are shitty places to work usually do get shitty applicants.

    And also like terra said- part of the problem is that people place such a huge value on educational and other resume characteristics that often do not translate well into ability.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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