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HOUSE OF THE WEEK

Monday, 3 September 2012

Job Rate Falls Further in Michigan



Labor Day means more than a chance to relax and eat hot dogs. It's also a time to reflect on the challenges facing the American worker.
Those challenges range from the profound to the prosaic: stubbornly high unemployment, bad bosses, lousy summer jobs for youths.
Today, the Free Press looks at some of those challenges.

Not enough jobs

Perhaps the biggest problem facing today's workers is that there is not enough work.
The national unemployment rate of 8.3% in July (9% in Michigan), remains well above the comfort level. True, Michigan's rate has improved a lot since the depths of the Great Recession, when the rate exceeded 14%. But more improvement is needed.
Add in those workers who can find only part-time work, or the discouraged dropouts no longer counted in the work force statistics, and the national jobless rate rises to about 15%.
Charles Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University, said disappointing jobless numbers may represent "the new normal."
"At the very least, it looks like it will take a very long time for us to get back to the levels of underemployment that we had before 2008," he said last week.
At a job fair last week in Dearborn, Dwayne Dixon said he spent 18 years in the food and beverage management industry, at one point overseeing 180 employees.
Then he opened his own restaurant in Southfield, DD & Folks Southern Cuisine, but had to close it after seven years as the economy slowed. He has been unemployed for the last two months.
"My attacks are online and job fairs ... and trying to stay aware of jobs available," said the 55-year-old from Harrison Township. "As with most businesses, they're suffering."
Also at the job fair, Laith Alsunni said he needed to find a job in 25 days. If not, he'll have to leave the U.S. under the terms of his visa.
The 26-year-old Saudi Arabian graduated from Lawrence Technological University in May. Information technology is his desired field.
"I've been looking for different jobs, I've been looking for a job for a year and a half," said Alsunni, who lives in Southfield. "I'm kind of depressed."
And "underemployed" is how Kimarie Williams describes her situation. For the past year, the 54-year-old has been working as an appointment booker at a talent agency.
It's a letdown for the Southfield resident. She's a college graduate who spent 14 years as an inspector at Chrysler. She took a buyout and planned to go back to school for her master's degree but hasn't been able to do it.
"I'm going through a lot of things," she said. "I'm disappointed, discouraged."

Jobless for a long time

More than three years after the end of the Great Recession, long-term unemployment remains one of the most serious challenges facing the country. In July, 5.2 million Americans had been searching for a job for more than six months, accounting for nearly 41% of all unemployed workers.
The improving job market has merely dented the number. Last Labor Day, long-term unemployment affected 6 million Americans.
In Michigan, the latest data show 204,000 residents have been out of work for more than six months, compared with 235,000 on Labor Day 2011. The actual numbers are likely higher because those who give up looking are not included.
Many are older workers such as Vincent Calabrese of Fraser. The longtime facilities manager lost his job at a charter school in 2009. He's been trying to get hired ever since.
Now 62, Calabrese said employers tell him they don't want to hire him because they fear he will leave for a better job. He didn't take a job for a company that wanted to pay him about $32,000.
Calabrese said he has used up every cent of his 401(k) retirement savings. This summer, he applied for Social Security benefits even though he's still hoping to find a job. He's thankful his wife has a full-time job.
"I'm not giving up, but I'm trying to be realistic," he said. "I'm still capable of providing a full day's work."

Retirement anxiety

Retirement may not be a total bust, but it's no party for those on the job and wondering when they will be able to stop working.
A little over half of baby boomer and Generation X households are projected to have enough money for retirement -- even taking into account nursing homes and long-term care, said Nevin Adams, co-director for the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute's Center for Research on Retirement Income in Washington, D.C.
But no doubt the other half has some challenges to face -- such as saving more and working longer.
"We think retirement is the top challenge facing workers today," said Nancy Hwa, a spokeswoman for the Pension Rights Center, a consumer organization to protect retirement security.
Bob Pettibone, 56, said he thought he would have been retired by now or close to it. Instead, the Fowlerville High School biology teacher finds himself worried at the very thought of retirement.
"It's difficult for me right now because the rules are changing as I approach retirement," he said.
He's proud to enter his 35th year of teaching this year. Yet because of changes in Michigan's retirement system for teachers, he said he's reviewing such options as contributing more money to maintain his pension benefits or ending up with reduced benefits in retirement.
And like so many workers, Pettibone has seen pay freezes and taken pay cuts during the hard economic times.
"It's frustrating," Pettibone said. "Financially, we're not able to retire."
Even those who are 10 years or so from retirement are uncertain of how much savings they'll really need to cover the bills.
About 28% of transition boomers -- those ages 55-65 -- are concerned that they won't be able to cover basic living expenses in retirement, according to Allianz Life's Transition Boomers and Retirement Income survey.

Crummy jobs

The notion that work ennobles the worker may be true for a lot of jobs -- doctors, clergy, teachers or poets -- but millions of Americans suffer with jobs that are dull, dirty and demeaning.
In recent weeks, the Free Press asked readers on Facebook to post their worst jobs ever. Some of the responses:
Reader Al Larese ranked his worst as a college job doing janitorial work at a local auto plant. "For two weeks, I was sent to fill in for someone at another building where my only work for EIGHT HOURS was to empty the waste baskets and sweep the floor twice per day. The rest of the time there was literally NOTHING to do, and I had to look busy doing it. Those were by far the longest days of my life."
Reader Steven Paquette also hated his summer break job: "scrubbing dorm restrooms" at MSU. "Filthy," he said.
And reader Duke Ellis couldn't stand his summer part-time job as a prison guard. "So many reasons to hate it, and the inmates ain't one," he wrote.
But some bad jobs bring laughter more than tears. Reader Laurel Drozonce filled in as the Easter Bunny at a mall.
"I was too small for the costume so the head kept tilting oddly against my nose and I couldn't manipulate the giant gloves to hand out packs of jelly beans," she wrote. "Plus, it turns out there's something almost universally terrifying about a 6 foot tall anthropomorphic bunny, so kids screamed, kicked and punched to get away. I knew right then I wasn't meant to work with kids."

Bad bosses

One reason some jobs rate as crummy is the boss.
Almost 1 in 2 Americans admits to having suffered under an unreasonable boss, according to a 2011 survey by the staffing service firm OfficeTeam.
Some 55% of those said they dealt with it by either trying to improve the situation or just suffering through it. But 38% said they quit, either immediately or when they had a new job lined up -- a huge disruptive cost for the American economy.
"Bad bosses aren't necessarily bad people, but they certainly can make work challenging for those who report to them," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, when the firm's most recent survey was released in 2011. "Often, individuals are promoted because they excel in a given job, but that doesn't mean they have the skills to be effective leaders."
OfficeTeam identified five types of bad bosses: the micromanager, the poor communicator, the bully, the saboteur and the mixed bag.
"Learn to adapt," advises Robin Ankton, OfficeTeam's regional vice president in Southfield. "There's a lot of different cultures, work styles, leadership styles, and the quicker someone is to be able to adapt the better."
EXPLORE:   World News 


Edited By Cen Fox Post Team
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