Return from Holiday Haiatus

I did not actually take a holiday from the whole job hunt thing. First of all the unemployment people would frown on that, or worse, decide to curtail my benefits. Somehow, I determined that my ongoing struggles were not of the heartwarming holiday greeting card variety. So my reporting was curtailed in the interest of providing a fun filled, cheerful holiday season for all. While I continued my unrelenting search for gainful employment, as the holidays came closer, the viable job openings became fewer and farther between. The alerts cropping up in my mailbox were definitely stale with many dating back to pre-Thanksgiving. It seems that all business and industry in the state came to a grinding halt for probably three weeks or more. And the dawn of a new year hasn't resulted in the flood of opportunity promised by the media. In fact, the trend has been job alerts with the same said positions and same said companies featured day after day. At least, I am assured that nobody else is getting these jobs either.

Meanwhile, forays into the news are not heartening. With all the trepidation surrounding the new health care law, news outlets are reporting some pretty gloomy statistics. It appears that the increases seen in health coverage premiums are only the tip of a Titanic iceberg, and the worst is yet to come. Actual costs for health care services are still escalating due to medical practices, clinics, and hospitals banding together into networks....(One wonders how this is possible in light of anti-monopoly legislation) In any event, according to articles from multiple sources, such as Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and USA today, employers are scrambling to decide how to cope with these rising costs. Their solutions are definitely not good for those of us sentenced to seeking employment. It appears that many have decided not to add to their staff, and where possible, decrease staff, to get the total numbers employed below the federal government threshold for the mandates. Another solution is to keep everyone below the required hours for "full time employment" as defined in the new healthcare law. Effectively, this means that those of us without work can only hope for part time employment, and those, presently working, may well see their hours cut, but expectations for production to remain at full time levels. After all, if you are not able to meet your production goals, there are literally dozens of us out there who haven't any job to take your place.

I don't want to get into a political discussion on this, but I truly don't understand how we can support a subsidized healthcare program if fewer and fewer of us are working, if fewer and fewer are seeing increases in income. Simple logic means that fewer people employed, and fewer people receiving raises, means that tax revenues will decline, unless of course, we start raising tax rates on those still employed and those who own businesses and offer employment. And as businesses absorb higher taxes as well as higher costs to provide benefits, then fewer people will be hired, and fewer hours will be offered. We have also put people in the position of trying to work multiple part time jobs in order to meet their family needs, and this is a scenario that doesn't work either. As I have discovered, employers may only be willing to offer part time hours, but want 24/7 availability. Try applying for a job, but blocking out twenty hours per week (those times when you would be at work at your other part time job), and chances are that you won't even get to the interview stage due to availability. And if you are fortunate enough to land two separate part time jobs, the complications begin. What happens if both employers schedule you for the same time slots on the same day? Or.....what if "Employer A" calls you to fill in, and you must decline, because you are already at work for "Employer B". The conflict of interest may be forgiven on one or two isolated occasions, but repeated rejections of offers are going to be perceived as a lack of commitment to your job. It may well get you fired from one or the other or both. We have created a society where everyone, regardless of ability, education, or experience is forced to scramble for scraps, and yet the media tells us how much better things are. I would really like specific data so that I can order my moving truck before I completely exhaust my retirement savings just trying to get by.

The other trend, according to news sources, seems to involve employers evaluating what they expend on employee healthcare versus the penalties. Unfortunately, most workers, fortunate enough to have employer sponsored healthcare, are insulated from the reality of what the employers are actually paying for the program. I know for a fact, based upon my previous employment, that in addition to the approximately $500 per month extracted from my pay envelope, my employer was paying almost double that amount on my behalf. How do I know this for fact? Very simple, the bill for continuing coverage through the COBRA insurance plan which was well over $1600 per month and totally out of the realm of reality for somebody receiving unemployment benefits. Think about this from the standpoint of a business owner for a moment, instead of buying into the "evil big business" image that the media is so fond of portraying. If you have a business with 50 employees, all at differing levels of ability and pay, and using the $1500 as an average expenditure per employee, that is $75K per month going out in healthcare alone, and almost 2/3 of that amount is coming out of the business owner's pocket. Granted, an employee with a larger family would be paying a larger contribution out of their pay, but the ratio of how much each employee pays versus the employer contribution would remain the same. You could have an employee that was contributing a $1000 per month, and that would translate into an employer contribution of $2000 per month on behalf of that employee. It is possible that the employee with the large family and the large contribution might also be an entry level clerk, and the employer might well be spending more on the benefit package than on the actual salary. Remember, benefit packages often include items other than just health insurance, although health insurance is probably the largest piece of the benefit pie. What about employers that reimburse employees for continuing education, and then promote from within, giving raises to those who have mastered more skills? Many employers offer life insurance that covers at least one year's worth of salary for the employee. I guess I can understand why it makes sense to consider paying a penalty of $2000 per year, per employee instead of paying that amount per month in benefits for each employee. But what that effectively does to all workers is put us on the same footing as we were when we got our first job experiences in high school, working at the fast food joint for 10-20 hours per week at a bit above minimum wage. The biggest difference is that when we were in high school, our parents took care of the healthcare thing, and the life insurance thing, and the education thing, because they had real jobs with real salaries and the ability to pay those bills. It appears that trying to make this healthcare thing "fair" for everyone (a laudable and noble goal, to be sure), the programs being implemented are serving to put more and more people into a dependency situation, relying upon rebates, tax credits, exclusions and free government health care programs. People who previously could get full time work, with healthcare benefits in addition to their salary or hourly wage, will not longer have that option, nor will they have the full time employment or earning capacity that makes purchasing their healthcare viable.

And before anyone decides to jump all over me about the 1%, those evil and greedy captains of industry, the modern day robber barons.......Can we please all remember that the guys sitting on Capital Hill are all richer than most of us could hope to be????? Some of the wealthiest people in the nation sit in the House and Senate, and are backed by other extremely wealthy robber baron types through campaign support and lobbyist activity. "Let he, who is sinless, cast the first stone!" Furthermore, if we look at our modest example of what benefits truly cost an employer, a business owner, please extrapolate how many are employed by companies like GE, Ford, Chrysler, Caterpillar, Lucent.......If a company of 50 people spends $75K per month, then what must the bills look like for companies that have 500 employees? 5000 employees? How much do our representatives and law makers expend upon their Golden Parachute of Health coverage and benefits? And that expenditure goes on beyond the time that they serve in office, for the duration of their lives. I want a piece of that pie. Work for 4-6 years and have guaranteed, complete head to toe, health coverage for the rest of your life, regardless of income, regardless of age, regardless of illness. Doesn't anybody else consider it a bit ironic that the program so eagerly voted for and passed does not include them, does not apply to them, does not change their situation in any context, but for the average worker, even before fully implemented, it has not only changed the face of healthcare, but the world of employment as well. I guess if you are in government, then this is a splendid idea, noble of purpose, taking care of the unfortunate. However, from my perspective, with the clock ticking, the unemployment support finite, my savings dwindling, I see myself rapidly becoming one of the "unfortunate", with no viable way to work myself out of the ever deepening hole. I can look forward to part time work at minimum wage or less (with the thought that maybe I can get my hourly total up to minimum wage with gratuities and tips).

And of course, while employers continue to try to determine if they can truly "get by" without the extra help, the pool of new job openings seems to shrink even farther. The job alerts, which targeted a specific geographic radius, are now listing things that are 40 to 50 miles away or more. In order to see new listings at all, the radius keeps expanding like ripples in a pond. The biggest problem with that is how do you ask somebody to undertake a commute like that for slightly above minimum wage, less than full time status, and no benefits? My job alerts, since the beginning of the year are now featuring positions in other states like Indiana and Wisconsin. Really???? There might be one or two positions listed in those areas and the same $10-12 per hour salary offered as those positions closer to home base....And I have also noticed that most employers are stating in their advertisements that they will not be providing any relocation support or assistance. I have run across ads that specifically ask if you live within the metro area where the job is listed. I guess even employers realize that they won't keep somebody very long with that great a commute distance, and that small a paycheck.

I take heart though. The scam opportunities are still plentiful if you want to be a money laundering service otherwise known as a "lucrative online business opportunity". And there is no shortage of commission only jobs, where you can spend your gas money, telephone minutes, and time, running all over the state trying to sell things to people who haven't jobs and haven't any money. Likewise, there are a plethora of franchise opportunities in which you, too, can become an evil greedy captain of industry profiting off the sweat of the masses. I haven't quite yet figured out how to afford the entry franchise fee (usually substantial amounts with lots of zeros) unless of course there are government funded stimulus programs for which I missed the memo. But I persevere!
I continue to read all the "help" articles. I am trying to be a Purple Squirrel-a rather bizarre help article on one of the many job search engines for which I have a registration. I have tried every conceivable resume format. I have a file folder full of cover letters for all occasions. I have upgraded my personal image. I have even undertaken self improvement, using books and self study to master new levels of proficiency. Basically, I am all dressed up with no place in particular to go. In that way, 2013 isn't starting out a whole lot different than 2012. The holidays are over and the letdown is real, but it isn't sadness for the passing of the holiday season as much as it is disappointment that all the promises of improving employment outlooks are nothing more than empty promises. I have met more people trying to get into the lifeboat with those of us already unemployed than I have met people who have been able to leave the lifeboat because they got a job, a real job.

Filed under: The Job Search

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