economy, job search

Discouraged workers and the ‘hopelessly unemployed’: Will life always be like this?

I recently took a trip to Spain. Two days before departure, I got a nasty head cold–which meant flying 11.5 hours sick. I arrived, had one great day–and then got the stomach flu. (I know–I sound like a ton of fun to travel with, right?) The upshot of this is my sleep schedule was totaly screwed up and remained that way for weeks after I arrived home. I was waking up at 3-4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Nothing I tried–exercise; no exercise; melatonin; reading with low light; watching C-SPAN–helped me sleep more/better.

One night, when sitting in the living room at 4:30am, both exhausted and wide awake, I had that fleeting thought–“What if this is the new norm? What if I never sleep more than 4 hours a night?” Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be reality (as is often true); a week later and I’m back to sleeping 6-7 hours a night.

I think we’ve all had these moments when something in our lives suddenly changes in an unexpected or negative way. We injure our back/knee/etc and hobble around for a week or two. We deal with insomnia. We have a sudden allergy attack that doesn’t seem to stop for a week or two.

Or–we lose our job. And/or are have difficulty finding the next one. If someone stays in this category long enough, they are considered a discouraged worker by the DOL, and there’s a lot of them. What’s worse is a new category being deemed the hopelessly unemployed–people who want a job but haven’t searched for one in at least a year. And there’s over 3 million people in that category.

We, as a nation, have to do better.

There are promising signs in certain sectors: There is some evidence that manufacturing jobs are starting to return to the US from near/offshore. Housing starts hit their highest number in December 2012 since their peak in 2008.

But it doesn’t explain why 3.25 Million people have become so hopelessly discouraged that they don’t even look for work–and haven’t for over a year.

What is the right solution, hivemind?



8 thoughts on “Discouraged workers and the ‘hopelessly unemployed’: Will life always be like this?

  1. I hope the answer is that Amercia finds its creativity again…that we creat or build the next new thing that employes millions.

    Posted by DeannaHeinrich (@DeannaHeinrich) | January 22, 2013, 1:29 pm
    • Thanks Deanna, and welcome to the blog! (FYI to everyone else…Deanna is an HR/Recruiting leader and a phenomenal person.)

      I agree with your sentiment. We’re seeing pockets of innovation: Boutique automakers like Tesla are innovating in ways large automakers have not–and producing vehicles that are world-class. Crowdsource funding tools like Kickstarter are providing the capital for many entrepreneurs to build everything from aquaculture tanks to 3D Printers. But much more is needed to restart our economy outside of the technology, services, and energy sectors.

      Posted by rightcandidate | January 22, 2013, 1:42 pm
  2. If you lose hope – you’re toast. If you’re discouraged, anger, bitter, depressed – you do not come across as an appealing candidate. It’s critical that you remain optimistic and hopeful.

    Posted by Patrick McFadden | January 23, 2013, 8:34 am
  3. We have to be careful not to put all our life meaning into a job. Here’s how I break it down:

    – “Vocation” is the big picture — it’s what you’re doing in life that makes a difference for you, that builds meaning for you, and that you can look back on in your later years to see the impact you’ve made on the world. Everyone has a “purpose,” a “vocation,” a “calling.” We fulfill our purpose by being excellent at whatever God created us to be. Everything that you do should be part of fulfilling your vocation. Your job will ideally be one part of that, but at times may not be directly related to it.

    -A “Career” is a line of work and ideally will be part of fulfilling ones’ vocation. You can have different careers at different seasons in your life. Conversely, two or three different careers can all support your vocation. For example, to embrace the calling of “helping to reduce pain and suffering in the world,” we could list multiple careers: physician, nurse, counselor, pastor, teacher, scientist, politician, writer, etc. Thus, if you want to change careers at some point in life, simply take a fresh look at your vocation and find a new application.

    -A “Job” is the most specific and immediate of the three terms. It has to do with one’s daily activities that produce income or a paycheck. The dictionary defines “job” as “a lump portion, a task, chore or duty.”

    Conclusion: In today’s rapidly changing workplace, the average job is 3.2 years in length, meaning you will have 14-16 different jobs in your working lifetime. Thus the job surely cannot be the critical definition of one’s purpose, vocation or calling. Changing a job should never change your calling. Losing your job – or being forced out will not change your calling.

    Posted by Patrick McFadden | January 23, 2013, 10:59 am
  4. sorry about the breaks you can edit when you moderate it

    Posted by Patrick McFadden | January 23, 2013, 10:59 am


  1. Pingback: Long-Term Unemployment and job search: Troubling statistics | Are YOU the Right Candidate? - May 22, 2013

  2. Pingback: Congress, Emergency Unemployment, and 2+ Million job seekers at risk | The Right Candidate - December 4, 2013

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