Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Psychology of Unemployment

William Hogarth, A Rake's Progress (source)
One of the worst impacts of the new economy is the psychological impacts that permanent unemployment is having on individuals. Feelings of valuelessness, depression, disillusionment....

People need to know that, when they can't find employment, this is not a reflection on themselves personally. The Age of Growth is over; the Age of Contraction has begun. Jobs simply do not exist in the numbers they would have to to support greater employment.

Of course, work still needs to be done: just don't expect to be compensated for it in the traditional manner. This will remain a problem for as long as we rely on elements of the system — landlords, banks, grocery stores — that still require traditional remuneration for their services. This predicament points to a possible way forward, which is to take strides to limit one's exposure to the orthodox system, thus limiting one's requirements for money.

But that's a digression. The main point is that you should not take it personally if you can't find work. For one thing, you are not alone — in Pennsylvania, in May, payroll surveys estimated that 14,000 people were laid off or fired. The official unemployment rate also dropped by one-tenth of one percent, which is interesting. We've entered a bizarro realm where more people can be unemployed while the "unemployment" rate yet falls. This is thanks to statistical manipulations (in place for a few decades) that won't count you as part of the labor force if you've given up looking for work (12,000 people were kicked out of the labor force in May) — or count you as "employed" even if your new job is part-time and pays half or less what you once made.

I think it's a damn shame that highly-skilled, -talented, and -educated people should be made to feel like shit because our unsustainable, perpetual-bubble economy is hemorrhaging  jobs as it deflates. It's even worse that they were sold a bogus bill of goods when they (we) were still in high school: that school debt was "good debt", that digging ourselves into this financial hole was a good thing because it meant we'd make way more than if we didn't. They didn't bother to tell us that what this really meant was that we'd have to make way more than if we didn't go to college, because that would be the only way to fill in the gaping chasm that would become of our finances for the foreseeable future. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the College Bubble collapses.

Final word: this unemployment situation is permanent. It will get worse. Learn to make the best of it. You may as well default on your debt now, too, because you're never going to be able to pay it back, anyway. Best to get rid of it now, before they've reinstated debtors' prisons.

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