Friday, March 11, 2005

Let me reiterate:

Oh shit. I knew nothing good could come from reading the LA Times. Being informed is overrated. (Except with respect to The O.C., of course. A girl's gotta have her priorities.) What should I find when looking up yesterday's front page surf article but a little title over on the 'most emailed' list that says"Long-Term Jobless Find a Degree Just Isn't Working".

I'm calling Northwestern and asking for my money back. (I'll address the issue of my soul at a later date, like after I've become rich and powerful.)

Now I'm not scared by all the playing around with statistics they do in this article. (I really resent it when people try to pass off proportions as absolute numbers, and vice versa. It's always done to further a specific objective that has nothing to do with objectivity, in this case fearmongering, and few readers pay enough attention to catch what the numbers really represent. I could go on, but this is another entry for another time.) They say that the proportion of long-term jobless (i.e. people who have been unemployed for more than six months) to the total number of unemployed is climbing and is now above 20%. Yeah, that sounds scary, but doesn't it make sense that people who are chronically out of a job will stay that way whereas those who have been in the work force more recently and have a better history with employment will get jobs again as soon as more jobs are available--which they are--thus increasing the proportion because there are fewer unemployed people in the pool? They use a couple of anecdotes about formerly hard-working people who have had bad luck recently to make it sound like all long-term jobless are like that. This is how I know PR is not for me: I can't stand reporters.

Anyway, the truth is there are more jobs now than there used to be. The unemployment rate is at the lowest it's been in several years. What scares me is that a greater proportion of the long-term jobless have college degrees. A couple of my favorite quotes:
The advantages of a college degree "are being erased," said Marcus Courtenay, president of a branch of the Communications Workers of America that represents technology employees in the Seattle area. "The same thing that happened to non- college-educated employees during the last recession is now happening to college-educated employees."
and

"When there's a lot of people out in the marketplace, companies can afford to say we want someone truly with this experience, not someone who just says, 'Well, I've taken a couple of classes in this area,' " he said.
I really like that second one.

I notice that they don't mention the overall proportion of college-educated to the total number of unemployed. Maybe because it doesn't sound as threatening as "long-term jobless": you can really catch the eye of your target audience (a large proportion of whom are college-educated) if you say that a degree won't save you from *gasp* long-term unemployment. Given current sentiment regarding the economy, no one expects their college degree to keep them from being laid off. But the proportion of college graduates to the total number of unemployed would probably put the "nearly one in five" long-term jobless rate in perspective. I tried to find the former on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website but education, for some reason, is not considered as important a factor as age, sex or race to unemployment and my browser wasn't cooperating with their customized tables feature. Google wasn't helpful either, though I did find an article that will further fuel one reader's smugness over choosing a life in academia rather than one in the real world. It was written ten years ago, but I'm sure that won't stop him.

As much as I distrust most of the article, though, I can't argue with the fact that more people in the unemployment pool have college degrees. I have a master's degree as well, but it means less without the experience to back it up. And that's a big stumbling block in a job market that is so undeniably competitive.

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