Last Friday, NPR featured a piece on the emotional/psychological toll some are experiencing as a result of the rampant unemployment we’re seeing in these grim economic times.
We’ve all heard the numbers, but listening to one individual emotionally talk about losing his or her job and searching for work brings the reality into stark focus.
How much a job factors into a person’s sense of self and identity varies greatly, of course. And, losing one’s job is not always a negative experience. I’ve had friends whose job eliminations have proven to be a blessing in disguise, as they’ve moved into better positions elsewhere. Some people take the opportunity to go back to school, or enter into a new career. For some a lay off can mean a much-needed kick in the ass or a wake up call to readjust expectations and/or goals.
However, in a recession, this silver lining is less likely to be found. The number of available jobs is greatly disproportionate to the number of unemployed. Credit markets have come to a grinding halt, meaning companies are struggling to find lines of credit and make payroll, much less add jobs. In addition, when unemployment runs out, people cannot turn to credit as easily. Which, in theory, should be positive; but how are they meant to live? The number of qualified, multi-skilled workers looking for jobs is staggering. And even more staggering is the number of skill-focused workers who have lost their jobs, most notably in manufacturing/labor sectors.
Silvia Martinez, who was profiled by NPR’s All Things Considered, aggressively looked for work after her human resources administrator position was eliminated,
“I apply for jobs and apply for jobs and no one calls. Nobody. I’ve even gone as far as applying at fast-food places; I’ve applied at Wal-Mart, at Kmart, at Target,” she says.
The anxiety, sense of panic and complete hopelessness people like Martinez feel has become more and more prevalent among the unemployed. Calls to suicide prevention hotlines have nearly doubled. There have also been reports of an increase in domestic violence and child abuse. The extreme stress is taking its toll.
I can’t begin to imagine a solution, aside from time. I have no clue how the new administration’s stimulus package will play out in the next few years. I do know that there seems to be some fundamental ideological shifts happening, most notably around spending within one’s means. How this will impact certain sectors remains to be seen, although we’ve certainly seen an immediate impact on retailers/manufacturing.
Positions were eliminated at my office this morning; for me these considerations are weighing heavily. My position will be impacted in a way that I am not happy about, but I have my job. It’s a strange thing, trying to navigate between the sadness, the disappointment and the relief.
Because, I don’t know how I would feel if I were laid off. Nor do I know what would happen. Would I easily find another job in my field? Would I be forced to take a lower-paying administrative job? Would I need to supplement my income with a retail or restaurant job? Would I perhaps find a better job? Would I enjoy not commuting 2 hours a day? How would I feel?
In the end, I am not worried about myself. Because there are thousands upon thousands of others in far worse situations. Jobless, single, with children, without prospects. What are they doing to do? And how are we going to help them?