Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's the jobless to do?

For those without a job, unemployment benefits are a lifeline. For our elected officials, it's a political football to be kicked around in anticipation of the upcoming midterm elections.

Despite the bickering, the federal government is now on the verge of passing a benefits extension that Republicans vehemently oppose. There are arguments on both sides about whether UC benefits help or hinder unemployed workers. Liberals argue that this money is immediately injected into the economy, which is true. Conservatives argue that it allows unemployed workers to be picky about jobs and reject substandard positions.

This argument may also be true. But what conservatives do not address is how subpar these positions might be. A job is a job, right?

James Sherk, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation think tank, told the Post-Gazette that unemployed workers will continue looking for jobs in their field rather than taking a position that pays less. That leads to longer unemployment, he said, because they are more willing to reject a position while still receiving benefits.

Well, obviously! Why wouldn't someone continue searching for jobs that they are qualified to do? And why wouldn't they expect to attain a similar salary level to what they had upon termination?

What conservatives will not say publicly when they are quoted in this manner is that they think the unemployed should take jobs normally reserved for high school kids during the summer. But for someone who has a mortgage, car payments and possibly children, how will a minimum wage job pay the bills? If this was my future, I wouldn't have spent the past decade studying communications at college before working in that field to boost my resume.

So let me pose this questions to the BLB readers. Do you think unemployed workers should accept subpar jobs that may not pay the bills rather than continue searching for a position in his/her field? With that in mind, let me also ask if you would voluntarily leave your current job and take another position that pays at least 25 percent less than what you're making now?


  1. We could go around on this all day, Mike! I wouldn't even be totally against unemployment benefits extension if the money was cut from somewhere else. To increase the deficit in order to provide benefits for people who have had them for over a year, however, is unacceptable. I know the situation sucks, and I couldn't imagine having to be in your shoes, but I can tell you that the same thing happened to my dad, and he took a job making a little more than HALF of what he made at his previous job. 10 years later, he still makes less than what he did, not even adjusted for inflation. He's OK with that, though, because he stopped sucking on the government teat as soon as possible.

  2. My questions isn't necessarily about whether unemployment benefits should be extended. After being without full-time work for the last 13 months, I'm indifferent to the situation. But my main question is whether the jobless should be expected to take substandard jobs. From your view, it does make sense because your dad went through that and did take a job that paid less. If I took a job that paid half, I would be working in fast-food. With me, it's not an issue of pride, but actually being able to pay Wells Fargo every month.

    My question is whether the unemployed should be expected to take this route.

  3. i think there is a reasonable expectation that the unemployed should receive benefits for a certain period of time so they can find another job in their field, which most likely will be at a pay grade lower than what they had previously been making. but eventually it should be expected that they take almost any job. if you take a fast food job, that doesn't prohibit you from still looking for a job in your area of expertise.

    and to answer your other question, i would take a pay cut if i found a job that i would enjoy more than what i do now. if i was going to switch to another job doing the same thing i do now, i would expect a pay increase. so if you would rather work than not work, you might be willing to take a pay cut.

  4. One of my problems with taking a substandard job is that it can quite literally be a resume killer. You spend years building your resume, and then have something that cannot be marketed in your field. In addition, your current salary level affects future earnings.

    And you say you would take a pay cut to find a job you actually like. But would you take a 25 percent salary decrease in Washington D.C. for a job you DON'T like? That's basically what the unemployed are being asked to do.

  5. i doubt an employer would base your salary on what you would be making at a fast food joint...i could be wrong about that, but i doubt it.

    sure a part-time job outside your field isn't really marketable, but when you go in for an interview you could at least say you took some initiative and got work somewhere...thus showing you are willing to work.

    there is a difference in an unemployed person taking a job they don't like and an employed person taking a job they don't like. there are reasons for the unemployed to take jobs (so they are no longer unemployed)...there really isn't a reason for someone already working to take a worse job. then again, if you read the washington post articles from yesterday and today (and tomorrow), i work for a defense contractor and apparently get bmw's and mercedes as bonuses. you really should read it...probably some of the most inaccurate reporting i have read in a while.

  6. Taking a job, whatever it pays, often can put people in contact with others with connections to better opportunities. A job on a resume is always better than blanks. I have mixed feelings about another UC extension.

  7. Certainly we can't afford to pay a large segment of the population not to work for the rest of their lives, but we have to remember that this economy is still mired in the worst economic mess since the Great Depression. And what really galls me is the holier-than-thou Republicans saying they don't want to give people benefits unless it's "paid for" with cuts elsewhere. They sure weren't worried about that when they have tax cuts to the richest of the rich.

  8. That should be "gave" tax cuts. Too early. ;-)

  9. Let me clarify that we are looking for jobs outside our fields. But if we can't even get hired for jobs within our majors, how will be hired for jobs we're not qualified to do?

    And there seems to be assumptions that we would easily be hired for a high school summer job. However, I applied to Rite Aid following gradation from college in 2005 and never got a call back.