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To the 8.6% who remain jobless: Hire yourself

December 2, 2011 |  2:36 pm

Get Hired
Good news: The jobless rate fell to 8.6% in November. That’s the lowest it’s been since March 2009, writes Times reporter Don Lee.

Bad news: The 40,000 troops headed home from Iraq this month and will add to the number of people searching for jobs. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has urged Americans to express their gratitude to our troops by hiring them when they get home, even if it’s just to mow lawns or assist in other household chores.

But what’s 40,000 compared to the 26.9 million people who’re already un- and under- employed? In a recent Op-Ed, sociologist David B. Grusky wrote:

Although we should, of course, care deeply about returning Iraq war veterans, we ought not to think for a moment that adding 40,000 workers to the job-seeking pool will break the back of the economy. It's already broken. The nation is laboring under the weight of a reserve army of nearly 27 million women and men who don't have a full-time job, but most surely want one. […]

While we should do everything we can to assist the reentry of the 40,000 veterans, our simple accounting exercise suggests that those who fixate on this latest round of labor force entrants have no idea how deep our labor market problems really are.

One such job-seeker shared his frustration on our discussion board:

I was a strength and conditioning coach for 20 years with a MS in Kinesiology, former Olympic coach, with certifications and tons of experience. I applied at every job opening in the nation for about 1 1/2 years, about 100 applications, I couldn't even get an interview for a university assistant coaching job. I had to do something, so I changed careers, I got my teaching credential in Science and have been interviewing non-stop, but with no experience I have been unable to land even a substitute teaching job. I have 3 college degrees and have been out of work for 2 1/2 years, my savings is running out and I don't see things getting better in the near future. For those of you out there that coldly state that these OWSers should just get a job and stop complaining. I say that there are many out there just like me wanting to work ready to work, with a significant amount of education and yet the jobs are just not there!


You can blame Obama. Or Wall Street. Or robots. Or old(er) people for not retiring. Or, say some others on our discussion board, take the problem into your hands.

In a recent Op-Ed by William Deresiewicz in the New York Times, he argued that the business plan was the great art form of our generation.

Here's what I see around me, in the city and the culture: food carts, 20-somethings selling wallets made from recycled plastic bags, boutique pickle companies, techie start-ups, Kickstarter, urban-farming supply stores and bottled water that wants to save the planet.

Today's ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it's the small business. […]

The small business is the idealized social form of our time. Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur. (Think of Steve Jobs, our new deity.) Autonomy, adventure, imagination: entrepreneurship comprehends all this and more for us. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.

He calls it the “millennial affect.” Perhaps there’s a broader peg to this idea of taking one’s employment into one’s own hands. Call it the “survivalist affect.”

“There is very little discussion of self-employment when discussing the unemployment rate and its cure, writes reader keninsd. “The additional opportunities that small business start ups represent can bring income and financial security to those who would otherwise not consider using their talent and experience to build equity for themselves, their families and communities.”

Reader MichaelPeninsula adds: "[A]merica has to get real about creating way to induce small business creation resulting in jobs. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a Universal Health Care Plan for all Americans. Doing so would unleash the many capable Americans willing to create small businesses and hire. It would also create a more competitive national workforce for goods and services on a Global Market.”


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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Job-seekers attend a career fair in Overland Park, Kan., Thursday. The unemployment rate fell last month to its lowest level in more than 2 1/2 years, as employers stepped up hiring in response to the slowly improving economy. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

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