In this era of recession and toxic unemployment, there’s at least a one-in-ten chance that you’re out of work. I’m no math wizard, so I’m basing this ratio on the official unemployment rate in this country, which is currently in the neighborhood of 10%.
There’s a parallel estimate that the real rate of unemployment is closer to 17%. This figure would include not only active job-seekers, but also (a) those poor sods who have given up their active job search, and now spend their days standing on a tall bridge, contemplating a Last High Dive, and (b) those who have found part-time, temporary work raking leaves in your grandma’s back yard.
But the unemployment rate by itself is only half of a key statistic. According to one estimate I’ve read, the ratio of active job-seekers to available job openings is 6 to 1. That means, if you’ve reached your desperation threshold, and you decide to apply for that job at Subway after all, there will be at least 5 yahoos in front of you who are equally desperate.
Of course, for some jobs, the odds are much more daunting. Last January, more than 1,400 people applied for a single meter reader position in Tacoma. Of these, 1,300 were invited to the Tacoma Dome for two rounds of tests. Of these, 800 showed up. Ultimately, one person was hired – a person who was already working part-time as a meter reader.
And recently, I saw several pasty-faced young men on a street corner, apparently IT sector rejects, holding signs that read, “Will code for food!” Wasn’t IT supposed to be the gift that keeps on giving?
For years, my father told me I had no business complaining about not being able to find a decent job. “We live in the richest nation on the planet,” he’d say. “People in China or India would love to have your opportunities!”
And now they do. At my old company, the executive wizards who were reshaping the corporate hierarchy couldn’t send jobs to Bangalore and Hyderabad fast enough. I spent many months helping to train my replacements.
While it would be easy to be bitter, I have to admit, most of the offshore staff I worked with were delightful people. One of my male coworkers in Hyderabad made a point of sending me electronic greeting cards at every opportunity, including Thanksgiving (“Here’s to hoping your holiday repast is most joyful!”), and Valentine’s Day (“My sincerest wishes that this day finds your heart suffused with love and joyfulness!”).
He was a bit confused about the whole Valentine thing, but he meant well. Presumably, he won’t have the same confusion when he’s trying to sort out the issues in your checking account.