A recent stop to the post office showed a long line of people with boxes to mail. When it was finally my turn, I asked the clerk, “Is this normal to be this busy?”
“It has been, the last month,” she said. “I think the economy’s getting better.”
Is she right? Depends on who you talk to.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American workers who were laid off from 2009 – 2011 are having difficulty finding new jobs: only 56.9% were able to do so, as of January 2012. A little more than 25% were still unemployed, and 15% had stopped looking altogether.
This news is more disheartening when salaries are considered: a number of those now employed had to take significant pay cuts for their new positions. It’s no surprise, then, that the consumer spending index has picked up only slightly (6.5%) — people are starting to realize that spending what you don’t have only leads to more trouble.
The Associated Press, in an analysis of economic data, concluded that (according to James Challenger, an economic columnist) “in addition [to] slow job growth and stubbornly high unemployment, economic growth, as measured by GDP, has never been weaker in a postwar economy.”
The whole picture is not quite as up-and-down as the numbers imply. For one thing, statistics are showing fewer layoffs overall. Based on the Challenger firm’s month-by-month analysis of January 2010 – July 2012, layoff announcements have dropped to just under 1.5 million — a strong improvement from the 2.5 million job cuts announced in 2008-2009. “People may not feel more secure [about] their jobs,” Challenger says, “but the data suggests they are.”
And those who didn’t lose their jobs during the years surveyed, according to Challenger, have managed to stay employed, “even in the weakest point of the recession and recovery.” It’s becoming even more important now to:
*Value your job, even if only as a stepping point to the position you really want.
*Give a good day’s work for a day’s pay. If the boss isn’t paying much attention, document your own accomplishments for the next quarterly review. Give your employers a good reason for keeping you on, even while others are let go.
Who’s really working here…and who isn’t?
*Take saving and spending even more seriously. Build up your emergency fund with the money saved by cancelling your cable, going out to eat less, or watching a game on TV, rather than at the stadium. A savings cushion not only helps out by covering necessary expenses — it gives you crucial moral support in uncertain times.
*Put in extra energy building up your portfolio and resume. It may help you keep your job — or even better, get a promotion. At the very least, classes, extra training and new projects keep you toned and ready to explore new possibilities. (Makes your boss happy, too.)
Whatever you decide, the best approach is an active one. “Those who keep their positions during this downturn are not going to do so by flying under the radar,” James Challenger says. “And those who find jobs are not going to do it by simply responding to Internet job ads. It will take a more aggressive approach that goes beyond most people’s comfort zone.”
Going out of your comfort zone — it’s not easy or fun. But it’s also what helps you grow.