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When unemployment benefits were extended to 99 weeks via the “stimulus package“, my first reaction was that high unemployment would also be extended 99 weeks.  Well, if you don’t like “I told you so” articles, this one isn’t for you.  In a discussion on LinkedIn,  a graph was presented, and I couldn’t have hoped for more exacting evidence.

It answers the job recovery question of “What are we waiting for?”  The chronology is there in black and white, and the first time I saw my expectation with my own eyes.

  1. In February 2009, benefits are extended to 99 weeks.  The upward spiral of unemployment that started during the election the year before continues to its highest point;
  2. As people’s 99 weeks are coming to an end (adjusted for the original 26 weeks some had, meaning July 210-January 2011), it starts to drop again — arguably out of necessity for people to find work instead of ride the system, 75% pay or not.

Now I must note, just to be clear:  I am not painting all people with the same brush, and this isn’t about judgment of individuals on unemployment. However, it’s a reasonable expectation of human nature for the average person to not work if you don’t have to — and I know plenty of such people personally, one of which actually called it a “vacation” she intentionally decided to take instead of look.

I also know of SO many companies hiring in all sorts of industries, unable to find people who are actually looking to be employed. Some of this is lack of qualifications, some unreasonable expectations in a downturn as to salary, but to be fair, almost anyone can fins SOME job, the problem being it will disqualify them from benefits while working toward a better opportunity.

Unemployment statistics, US Dept. of Labor

By qualifications we could talk about companies looking for people with SOME experience in a field or job — a VERY reasonable qualification — but many are willing to train people on their own dime, so we’re not talking about that. I’m talking about assembly-line workers, kennel cleaners, retail positions, and all sorts of entry-level positions, some of which absolutely pay “a living wage“.

Training programs are out there, LOTS of them. However, here in America people mostly only look for jobs they already are qualified for or wishing for FULL replacement income rather than take what’s available slightly under their usual, expected lifestyle. Yes, I said LIFESTYLE, not “living wage”. (Again, not talking about everyone, but nearly everyone I’ve met that is bothering to look, including people I interviewed myself.)

We have masses of people UNWILLING to be retrained, no matter how easy. Instead of starting wages in some other business, they want the exact same wages in the same kind of job. It’s like they’re under the delusion they can walk into the same position and seniority in a completely different company as if nothing happened.

It reminds me of the steelworkers in [[Western New York]] who were waiting decades for the mills to reopen for jobs to come back. The main reason we’re progressing economically now is because most of that generation is now dead of old age!

But back to point: When you have a “safety net” of unemployment for x number of weeks, it is only natural that people “hold out” for a job that MIGHT be something they are USED TO or WANT to do, and damn well will hold out for a job that pays more than unemployment, even if it’s a gamble.

So if we had extended unemployment an extra three months, I vehemently suspect the chart would show an off-put of the job recovery by exactly that long. I’m sure some can find a way to blame corporations, but while some are feeling entitled to what they had before, others have moved on, restarting their careers and on their way to a full recovery.

The whole country could take a lesson from that, I think.

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