The Great Recession of 2007 / 2008 took out a lot of my friends, your friends, colleagues, associates, family members and bosses via layoffs. The employment climate was bad all around, no matter the industry. Week by week, many of us were informed that our jobs were either no longer existent, required and/or affordable.
Many people had to scale down their lifestyles, sell their homes short or go into foreclosure and take on odd jobs just to survive. Unemployment insurance was a gift from the high heavens for those not lucky enough to have been given a severance and, day by day, the thought of whether or not the economy would bounce back loomed in the minds of all.
Slowly but surely, we have watched as reports of the economy making positive strides started to trickle back in. Some of my laid off lawyer friends went from unemployed and close to eviction, to taking temporary document review opportunities while searching for housing and new work, to committing and accepting new full-time positions and getting new apartments, despite it taking almost two years for them to recover. As I think about all of the people I know who were laid off during the recession, all of them are back to work, and not back to work in the sense of just taking any work they can to pay their mortgage, but back to work doing what they always set out to do. So maybe, just maybe, things have returned to normal?
According to a recent jobs report provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics in May:
In April, both the unemployment rate (5.4 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (8.5 million) were essentially unchanged. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons were down by 0.8 percentage point and 1.1 million, respectively.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Asians increased to 4.4 percent. The rates for adult men (5.0 percent), adult women (4.9 percent), teenagers (17.1 percent), whites (4.7 percent), blacks (9.6 percent), and Hispanics (6.9 percent) showed little or no change in April.
The number of persons unemployed for less than 5 weeks increased by 241,000 to 2.7 million in April. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) changed little at 2.5 million, accounting for 29.0 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long term unemployed has decreased by 888,000.
This all sounds like good news, right?
Unemployment has decreased over the year by .8 percent, and the number of those unemployed for longer than 27 weeks has also decreased by 888,000 persons.
Yes, the numbers provide a very positive outlook as it relates to the upwardly trend of jobs, however, the numbers are just a microcosm of the reality of some still searching for their “happily ever after” in the job market. The truth, as discovered in all of these percentages and subsequent charts, is that most employers are a tad bit skittish about hiring as many employees as they actually can. And, though most of my friends have seemingly rebounded from their losses, the truth is that though jobs have increased, those who suffered the most (i.e. – the hyper unemployed) still suffer from being under employed, sparingly employed and/or not even looking anymore due to the stream of rejection that they just no longer wanted to deal with.
A recent NY Times article noted that any worries that existed due to a stretch of “lackluster” growth should be eased as the government reported on Friday that employers have added a “hefty” 280,000 jobs in May, which is “above the average monthly totals logged over the last year.”
However, as it relates to unemployment, reflective of the report, as noted within the article, “Still, a broader measure of unemployment, which includes part-timers who want full-time jobs and those who are too discouraged to even search, remained at 10.8 percent, a potent sign that the recovery’s gains have not been spread evenly. As a survey in October on families’ financial well-being by the Federal Reserve showed when it was released recently, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were either ‘doing O.K.’ or ‘living comfortably,’ with the rest reporting they were ‘just getting by’ or struggling.”
I was affected by the 2008 recession, as I was let go from my Of Counsel position I held for almost four years after moving to New York. After a year of being unemployed and under-employed, I got another job with another firm. During that time of steady paychecks, making the most money I had made at that time, I definitely felt like the worst was over and the job market was getting better. My assessment was purely based on my having secured another job, and not on whatever the government was reporting.
Since being let go of THAT job as well in 2011, and having to procure my own clients, work and opportunities, I can’t say that I feel as if the glory days of free flowing expense accounts, consistent calls from recruiters and/or weekly interviews seem to be abundant. As Jay Z says, “men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t.” I guess that means we, as a nation, are doing well and are on the upswing, whether it actually feels that way to all or not.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com. She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 10 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.