Category: Recovery


Bloomberg

French Recovery Fades as Manufacturing, Services Contract

Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

An employee removes excess felt from berets inside the factory of 174-year-old… Read More

French manufacturing and services unexpectedly shrank this month, highlighting President Francois Hollande’s struggle to revive the euro area’s second-largest economy.

A Purchasing Managers Index of factory activity dropped to 49.3 from 51.2 in April, while a services gauge fell to 49.2 from 50.4, Markit Economics said today in London. Economists had forecast readings above 50, the level that divides expansion from contraction.

Hollande is grappling with an economy that stagnated in the first quarter as both investment and consumer spending fell. After two years in office, his government has yet to achieve two consecutive quarters of expansion, a performance that has driven jobless claims to an all-time high of 3.3 million and his own popularity to a record low.

 

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French economy contracts while rest of eurozone keeps expanding

The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Germany.

The strong pace of growth in the eurozone’s private sector eased very slightly this month, with drastic price cuts preventing any further slowdown, surveys showed yesterday.

Slower growth in activity at factories took the shine off an unexpected pickup in the service industry, although the bloc’s recovery appears to be gaining traction.

“This doesn’t change the picture of the eurozone having one of its best growth spells in the past three years. It’s broad-based – with the one exception being France,” said Rob Dobson, senior economist at survey compiler Markit.

Markit’s Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, based on surveys of thousands of companies across the region and seen as a good indicator of growth, edged down to 53.9 from April’s near three-year high of 54.0, matching the forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

 

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Eurozone’s 18-month-long recession may be over, economic surveys suggest

French factories

The Osram factory in Molsheim. French factories returned to growth with their strongest performance in 17 months. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Hopes of a recovery in the eurozone were lifted after private sector firms across the region reported a rise in output for the first time in 18 months, leading to predictions that the single currency bloc is on the cusp of exiting recession.

A strong performance by German manufacturers and a halt to the headlong decline in French business activity gave the eurozone a much needed boost after the area slipped into reverse last year.

With the US manufacturing sector expanding at a faster pace in July, the main blot on the global economic recovery was a decline in manufacturing output in China that some economists have warned could force Beijing to renew its stimulus spending or risk a hard landing.

China’s manufacturing sector tempered the eurozone data, slowing to an 11-month low as new orders faltered and the job market darkened.

The flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 47.7 this month from June’s final reading of 48.2, marking a third straight month below the 50 threshold between expansion and contraction for China.

As if to highlight concerns that global growth is slowing, Caterpillar, the US construction and mining business that is considered a bellwether of global business activity, downgraded its forecast for the pace of the global recovery this year and next.

Alexandra Knight, an economist at National Australia Bank, said the weak Chinese PMI posed a problem for countries that relied on exports to China.

“It adds to the concern about the outlook for demand, and brings into question just how strong Chinese commodities demand will be,” she said.

 

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File:VH-3D Marine One over Washington DC May 2005.jpg

Official U.S. Marine Corps photo 050521-N-0295M-097 [1] from the USMC website [2]

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopter, assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), in flight over Washington D.C. on 21 May 2005.

By  :  PH2(AW) Daniel J. McLain

Wikimedia.org

 

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Monday, 12 May 2014 09:47

$1.2 Billion for New White House Helicopters Just the Beginning

Written by 

It didn’t take long for critics to scoff at the costs of the latest effort to upgrade the fleet of presidential helicopters announced by the Defense Department on Wednesday, May 7. They say the $1.2-billion contract awarded to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation will be just the beginning.

There are at least two reasons to be skeptical: the open-ended nature of the White House requirements, and recent history.

The Department of Defense outlined its requirements, stating that Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which currently operates 19 presidential helicopters, must provide “safe and timely transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state and others as directed by the White House Military Office.”

In addition, each aircraft must be equipped with various self-defense features such as bulletproof glass and body panels, as well as specialized communications equipment that allows the president to maintain “critical command functions” while airborne. Each helicopter must be large enough to carry up to 14 passengers and several thousand pounds of baggage while being small enough to operate from the White House lawn.

Each must have a minimum range of 300 miles and carry a full complement of defensive countermeasures to thwart heat-seeking and radar-directed missiles and also be hardened against an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), either from an enemy or from the sun. It must be able to send and receive encrypted communications and hold secure teleconferences while in flight.

And each must have air-conditioning and a toilet.

Under the contract Sikorsky promises to deliver two prototypes by 2016, with another 21 fully operational aircraft six years later.

Several questions arise. First, why so many? After all, there’s just one president and one vice president. According to Helimart.com, anytime the president flies somewhere by helicopter, four other helicopters are alongside him. They fly in varying formations to keep the president’s aircraft as disguised as possible. This is often referred to as the presidential “shell game.” In addition, with a helicopter’s range of just 300 miles, a longer trip must “cache” additional aircraft along the route.

 

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A diagram showing the organization of the Federal Reserve System

 

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An Irredeemably Bad Deal

Obama, Geithner and the Missing Six Trillion Dollars

by ROB URIE

Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama’s first Treasury Secretary and chief architect of many of the various and sundry bank bailouts and associated programs carried out during Mr. Obama’s first term in office, recently wrote a book telling his side of ‘the story.’ To be clear, I haven’t read the book and have no intention of doing so. Life is short and the relevant side of the story, the economic consequences of Mr. Geithner’s policies, is the one of interest here. The prevailing storyline in the banker’s ghettoes of New York and London is of an indispensable and functioning financial system saved and a second Great Depression averted through Mr. Geithner’s necessary but unpopular programs to transfer public resources to nominally private corporations— Wall Street banks, in order to save them. Implied is that the travails Wall Street faced in 2008 – 2009 were the result of ‘natural’ forces and that its restoration is substantially related to restoration of ‘the economy.’ Mainstream economists have put forward variations on this latter claim through repeated assertion that ‘the economy,’ as measured by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the official unemployment rate, has ‘recovered’ to pre-recession levels.

urie1a

Graph (1): Contrary to the view on Wall Street and within the Western economic establishment restoration of Wall Street has not ‘fixed’ the economy. The policies of Mr. Geithner, the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have ‘fixed’ profits, compensation and bonuses for Wall Street. The drop in median income is evidence of ongoing economic Depression for most citizens of the West. Assertions to the contrary by Mr. Geithner, the Obama administration and the ‘eternal sunshine of the spotless mind’ crowd of Western economists are evidence of whose interests they represent. Apparent in the recovery of financial profits without a recovery in household incomes is that Wall Street doesn’t need a functioning economy to earn ‘profits.’

 

 

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The Fed Is The Great Deceiver — Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler

 

Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler

Is the Fed “tapering”? Did the Fed really cut its bond purchases during the three month period November 2013 through January 2014? Apparently not if foreign holders of Treasuries are unloading them.

From November 2013 through January 2014 Belgium with a GDP of $480 billion purchased $141.2 billion of US Treasury bonds. Somehow Belgium came up with enough money to allocate during a 3-month period 29 percent of its annual GDP to the purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Certainly Belgium did not have a budget surplus of $141.2 billion. Was Belgium running a trade surplus during a 3-month period equal to 29 percent of Belgium GDP?

No, Belgium’s trade and current accounts are in deficit.

Did Belgium’s central bank print $141.2 billion worth of euros in order to make the purchase?

No, Belgium is a member of the euro system, and its central bank cannot increase the money supply.

So where did the $141.2 billion come from?

There is only one source. The money came from the US Federal Reserve, and the purchase was laundered through Belgium in order to hide the fact that actual Federal Reserve bond purchases during November 2013 through January 2014 were $112 billion per month.

In other words, during those 3 months there was a sharp rise in bond purchases by the Fed. The Fed’s actual bond purchases for those three months are $27 billion per month above the original $85 billion monthly purchase and $47 billion above the official $65 billion monthly purchase at that time. (In March 2014, official QE was tapered to $55 billion per month and to $45 billion for May.)

Why did the Federal Reserve have to purchase so many bonds above the announced amounts and why did the Fed have to launder and hide the purchase?

Some country or countries, unknown at this time, for reasons we do not know dumped $104 billion in Treasuries in one week.

 

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Collapse in pay lies behind Britain’s return to work: Self-employed are hidden victims of recession, report warns

The study by the Resolution Foundation think tank reveals the dark side of the sharp growth in self-employment, which has helped the Government to maintain its boast that unemployment is falling as more and more people find work.

Since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of self-employed has risen by 650,000 to 4.5 million. They now represent 15 per cent of the active workforce.

But the new analysis reveals that the average weekly income of someone in self-employment is 20 per cent lower than in 2008.  As a result, a typical self-employed worker now earns 40 per cent than a typical employee.  An Ipsos-Mori survey commissioned as part of the report also found that 27 per cent of those who became self-employed in the past five year do so because they had no other choice – up from 10 per cent five years ago.

Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “Self-employment is often a highly precarious existence which isn’t that well supported by public policy. High levels of self-employment seem likely to be here to stay and policy-makers have some catching up to do.”

The grim truth about pay and living standards in some the regions of the UK has also been highlighted by official EU figures showing that parts of Britain are effectively poorer that countries from  former communist countries in Eastern Europe.

People in Cornwall and the Welsh Valleys are worse off than residents of Estonia and Lithuania, according to Eurostat figures comparing wealth across the EU using a measure known as “purchasing power standards” – which takes into account GDP per person and cost of living.

In addition, Durham and the Tees Valley, in the north east of England, are poorer than those in the wealthiest regions of Bulgaria and Romania, the two most deprived countries in the EU.

By contrast, the Eurostat figures show that London is the richest place in Europe.

According to the Resolution Foundation report, self-employed people are more likely than people in full time employment to complain of being under employed.

 

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Pension fears for rising number of self-employed

Higher levels of self employment have become a permanent feature of the UK economy as a result of Britain’s ageing workforce and a greater desire for Britons to “work for themselves”.

The Resolution Foundation said the increase in self-employment also presented a “worrying picture of the security and vulnerability of self employed people”, who have traditionally saved less for retirement than employees. Photo: PA

Higher levels of self employment have become a permanent feature of the UK economy as a result of Britain’s ageing workforce and a greater desire for Britons to “work for themselves”.

The number of people who are self employed has grown by 650,000 since the 2008 financial crisis, to 4.5m, meaning one in seven workers is now self employed.

While some of the shift towards self-employment has been caused by cyclical factors, the Resolution Foundation said 73pc of workers had chosen to become self-employed. “The high self-employment numbers are here to stay,” said Laura Gardiner, a senior policy analyst at Resolution Foundation.

The rise in self employment has attracted attention from the Bank of England, where policymakers have argued over whether the increase reflects structural changes in the UK economy or “disguised labour market slack” because many of these workers would prefer to be working full-time.

While the Foundation said there was less slack in the economy caused by self-employment than some policymakers believed, it said underemployment among these workers was “marginally worse than for employees”, representing a reversal of the pre-crisis trend.

 

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Jobseekers being forced into zero-hours roles

Letter from Conservative minister reveals plans to sanction unemployed people if they fail to agree to controversial contracts
Jobseekers

Jobseekers queue outside a Jobcentre Plus branch at London Bridge. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

 

For the first time, benefit claimants are at risk of sanctions if they do not apply for and accept certain zero-hours jobs under the new universal credit system, despite fears that such contracts are increasingly tying workers into insecure and low paid employment.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed the number of contracts that do not guarantee minimum hours of work or pay but require workers to be on standby had reached 1.4 million.

More than one in 10 employers are using such contracts, which are most likely to be offered to women, young people and people over 65. The figure rises to almost half of all employers in the tourism, catering and food sector.

Currently, people claiming jobseekers’ allowance are not required to apply for zero-hours contract vacancies and they do not face penalties for turning them down.

However, the change in policy under universal credit was revealed in a letter from Esther McVey, an employment minister, to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore, who had raised the issue of sanctions with her.

The senior Tory confirmed that, under the new system, JobCentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts“, although they would have discretion about considering whether a role was suitable.

Separately, a response to a freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published on its website reveals: “We expect claimants to do all they reasonably can to look for and move into paid work. If a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied, but we will look into the circumstances of the case and consider whether they had a good reason.”

Higher level sanctions – imposed if a jobseeker refuses to take a position without good reason or leaves a position voluntarily – will lead to a loss of benefits for 13 weeks on the first occasion, 26 weeks on the second occasion and 156 weeks on the third occasion.

Asked about the issue by the Guardian, the DWP said jobseekers would not be required to take a zero-hours contract that tied them in exclusively to work for a single employer. The government is already consulting on whether to ban this type of contract altogether.

The change has been made possible because universal credit will automatically adjust the level of benefits someone receives depending on the number of hours they work. This means claimants should not face periods without the correct benefits when their earnings fluctuate or they change job.

However, critics raised concerns that the new policy will force people into uncertain employment and restrict the ability of claimants to seek better work while still placing a burden on many to increase their hours.

Labour’s Sheila Gilmore said she was concerned about the situation because JobCentre decision makers already do not appear to be exercising enough discretion before applying sanctions under the old regime.

“While I don’t object to the principle of either universal credit or zero-hours contracts, I am concerned about this policy change,” she said. “I also fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hours contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term.”

 

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ByBruce Kennedy

Another bad sign for America’s middle class

You don’t have to be an economic victim of the Great Recession to know that America’s middle class is being squeezed in an unprecedented manner. Not only is the U.S. middle class no longer the world’s richest, according to recent research, but millions of families who were once financially secure are now living hand-to-mouth.

What’s going on? A new report from the National Employment Law Project finds that, nearly five years after the recession officially ended, most of the jobs that have been created during the recovery offer lower wages. Such positions made up 22 percent of jobs lost in the recession, but have accounted for 44 percent of employment growth.

 

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Where is the middle class heading?

 

The labor research and advocacy group also found that, from the outset of the recession in late 2007 to its low point in February of 2010, “employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries.”

By contrast, mid-wage positions, which composed 37 percent of the jobs cut in the recession, have made up only 26 percent of those recovered. High-wage industries, which made up 41 percent of recession jobs lost, reportedly had a 30 percent recovery growth.

“Today, there are nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries,” NELP said in a statement,

 

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The low wage jobs explosion

  @Luhby April 28, 2014: 4:57 PM ET

low wage explosionLow wage jobs are on the rise.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Looking for a job? The ones you’ll find will likely be low wage.

The labor market has been recovering since the Great Recession ended, but many of the jobs created have been in low-wage industries, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, a left-leaning group.

Among the fastest-growing jobs: Food services, home health care and retail — all of which pay relatively little.

Better paying blue-collar industries, such as construction and manufacturing, have not recovered to their employment levels before the recession.

Lower wage industries accounted for 44% of employment growth since employment hit bottom in February 2010, the group found.

Going back to the start of the recession six years ago, the nation has added 1.85 million jobs in low-wage industries, but mid-wage and higher-wage industries have shed nearly 1 million positions each.

 

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Reuters

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

 U.S. job growth jumps, but shrinking labor force a blemish

WASHINGTON Fri May 2, 2014 4:52pm EDT

(Reuters) – U.S. employers hired workers at the fastest clip in more than two years in April, pointing to a rebound in economic growth after a dreadful winter and keeping the Federal Reserve on track to end bond purchases this year.

The brightening outlook was, however, tempered somewhat by a sharp increase in the number of people dropping out of the labor force, which pushed the unemployment rate to a 5-1/2-year low of 6.3 percent. Wage growth also was stagnant.

Nonfarm payrolls surged 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That was largest gain since January 2012 and beat economists’ expectations for only a 210,000 rise.

“It lends significant legitimacy to the positive tone in the wide array of post-February economic reports, which have all been consistently pointing to a significant pick-up in economic growth momentum this quarter,” said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

March and February’s data was revised to show 36,000 more jobs than previously reported.

U.S. stocks briefly rallied on the report, which was later eclipsed by rising tensions in Ukraine. Stocks ended lower, while safe-haven bids pushed the yield in the 30-year U.S. government bond to its lowest level in more than 10 months.

The dollar was flat against a basket of currencies.

About 806,000 people dropped out of the labor force in April, unwinding the previous months’ gains. That helped to push down the unemployment rate 0.4 percentage point to its lowest level since in September 2008.

The labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or unemployed but looking for a job, also fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 62.8 percent last month, slipping back to a 36-year low touched in December.

Overall, however, the data suggested the economy was gathering strength and led investors to pull forward their bets on when the Fed will start to raise interest rates.

The strong payrolls growth added to upbeat data such as consumer spending and industrial production in suggesting that sputtering growth in the first quarter was an aberration, weighed down by an unusually cold and disruptive winter.

 

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Reuters

Discouraged job seekers behind shrinking labor force

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 5, 2013 6:58pm EDT

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York March 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton


(Reuters) – Americans giving up the hunt for jobs were likely behind a sharp drop in the U.S. workforce last month, a bad sign for an economy that is struggling to achieve a faster growth pace.

The number of working-age Americans counted as part of the labor force — either with a job or looking for one — tumbled by 496,000 in March, the biggest fall since December 2009, the Labor Department said on Friday. That pushed the so-called workforce participation rate to a 34-year low of 63.3 percent.

March marked the second month in a row that the participation rate declined — 626,000 people have dropped from the work force since January.

Friday’s report showed a decline in the number of discouraged job seekers last month after a pop in February, which at first glance might suggest the drop in the workforce was mainly because of shifting demographics.

But a closer look at the underlying numbers raises questions about the notion that retiring baby boomers were the driving force behind the shrinking workforce.

“You have to think that it’s a large part demographics, but demographics are not really going to have such a big effect on month-to-month changes,” said Keith Hall, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

Of the nearly 500,000 people dropping out, just 118,000 were aged 55 and older, meaning more than three-quarters of the increase came from below-retirement-age adults.

Also, the number of people 65 and older counted as part of the workforce actually rose by 27,000, which followed a 72,000 increase in February.

Hall said the sluggish economy was forcing some older Americans to continue working to rebuild retirement nest-eggs that were shattered during the 2007-09 recession.

Indeed, the participation rate for Americans between 55 and 64 years old held steady at a relatively high 65 percent. On the other hand, participation by the 25-29 age group was the lowest since record-keeping started in 1982.

“People are just giving up the search for work. A lot of them would like to work and they aren’t, that is a serious sickness in the economy,” said Peter McHenry, assistant economics professor at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The drop in participation helped to lower the unemployment rate by a tenth of a percentage point to 7.6 percent. If the workforce had not contracted, the jobless rate would have risen two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.9 percent in March.

 

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Yahoo Finance
In this April 10, 2014 photo, Jennifer Stickney, a recruiter for Right at Home, which provides in-home care and assistance, answers questions from nursing students at a job fair on the campus of Kaplan University in Lincoln, Neb. The Labor Department on Friday, May 2, 2014 said U.S. employers added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, the most in two years, the strongest evidence to date that the economy is picking up after a brutal winter slowed growth. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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In this April 10, 2014 photo, Jennifer Stickney, a recruiter for Right at Home, which provides in-home care and assistance, answers questions from nursing students at a job fair on the campus of Kaplan University in Lincoln, Neb. The Labor Department on Friday, May 2, 2014 said U.S. employers added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, the most in two years, the strongest evidence to date that the economy is picking up after a brutal winter slowed growth. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Any period of unemployment can have a crippling effect on a worker’s career and finances. But to be both young and unemployed in America presents its own set of unique challenges.

Workers under the age of 30 have contended with five solid years of double-digit unemployment — 19% for 16- to 19-year-olds and 10.6% for 20- to 24-year-olds at last count. The economy is slowly improving and there are jobs to be had again. The overall U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 6.3% in April as 288,000 jobs were added — the highest in two years, the Labor Department announced Friday.  But young people who haven’t been able to find work are now struggling to compete in a tough job market with little experience.

“The longer you’re not in the workforce, the harder it is to get back in,” says Rory O’Sullivan, deputy director of the Young Invincibles. “Employers look at resumes and there are a lot of young people working outside of their field of study. You can imagine all those things can make it harder to build a career.”

As many as one in five high school graduates and one in 10 college graduates are considered “disconnected youths,” those who are not working or enrolled in college, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.

“There is little evidence that young adults have been able to ‘shelter in school’ from the labor market effects of the Great Recession,” the authors write. “Increases in college and university enrollment rates between 2007 and 2012 were no greater than before the recession began—and since 2012, college enrollment rates have dropped substantially.”

If these “idle” young people were factored into unemployment rates, it would raise the combined rate of unemployment for 16- to 25-year-olds from 14.5% to 18.1%.

And of those young people who have managed to find work, nearly half are considered to be underemployed, often working in part-time jobs that may have little or nothing to do with their chosen career path. What’s more, young people who graduate in 2014 will likely earn less than they would have if they had graduated in a stronger economy, the EPI report says.

Wages for high school graduates have dropped by 9.8% since the recession and wages for young college graduates fell by 6.9%.

Youth unemployment isn’t just a “young people” problem either. A recent report by the Young Invincibles estimates it has cost the U.S. economy nearly $9 billion in lost tax revenue since 2007. Each unemployed 18- to 24-year-old represents an estimated $3,200 in lost tax revenue, and each 25- to 34-year-old costs more than twice as much: $7,000.  And with nearly one-third of millennials living at home with their parents, parents who might have otherwise been enjoying the relief of an empty nest must instead continue their roles as financial guardians.

The reality is that young people are disproportionately impacted by economic downturns and no matter how much the U.S. economy improves, they will be feeling the effects of the recession for many years to come.

We spoke with several young people under the age of 30 — all solidly in the “underemployed” camp — who are struggling to launch their careers.

 

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Photo: Sara Beck

“My resume is a work of art.”

Sara Beck, 28, has spent the better part of a year trying and failing to find a full-time marketing position in Plymouth, Minn.

Her troubles have little to do with her lack of education or job skills: She has an MBA in international business, spent six years working abroad, and speaks perfect Spanish.

“My problem is that I’m either too experienced or not experienced enough for some of the jobs I want,” she says. “I had a really promising interview, but I got an email recently that they decided to go with candidates whose experience aligned more with the requirements. It was an entry-level position.”

While Beck pursues a career in the U.S., her husband, a Chilean national, stayed behind in Santiago to work on obtaining a work visa. She’s caring for their daughter on her own while living with relatives until she can find work.

“I can’t send my daughter to the daycare of my choice because I’m saving money,” she says. “I have more than $70,000 left in student loan debt. It’s insane to think about.

In the meantime, she has cobbled together enough freelance work to stay afloat — writing, editing and translating gigs that put food on the table but don’t necessarily improve her odds of landing a marketing job.

“I try to take a job in, say, content writing and apply it to a job as a business analyst,” she says. “My resume is a work of art.”

 

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10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart

Depressed - Photo by Sander van der Wel

If the economy is really “getting better”, then why have millions upon millions of formerly middle class Americans been pushed to the point of utter despair?

The stories that you are about to read are absolutely heartbreaking.  I don’t know how anyone can read them without getting chills.  In America today, if you lose a good job, there is a good chance that you will get back on your feet before too long.  But there is also a good chance that you won’t be able to find a decent job and will plunge into the abyss of depression and desperation that so many millions of other Americans have fallen into.  As I wrote about earlier this month, the U.S. economy is definitely not getting any better.  For example, if you assume that the percentage of Americans that want to work is about at the long term average, then the official unemployment rate in the United States would be above 11 percent.  And compared to six years ago, 1,154,000 fewer Americans are working today even though our population has gotten significantly larger since then.  Behind all of these numbers are real flesh and blood people, and you are about to hear from some of them.  The following are 10 stories from the cold, hard streets of America that will break your heart…

#1 A 34-year-old man named Rocco

“While my wife goes to work, I’ve been staying at home to conserve fuel. I’ve been losing weight from eating less, so my family has more on their plates. It feels like the government and big business expect more and more while trying to give back as little as possible. Soon my internet connection will be shut off and since most companies don’t offer paper applications, how will I find work then? Walking around for miles a day, asking for an application that may or may not be available?”

#2 Homeless people wasting away in “Obamavilles” on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland…

A sheet of plastic laid over a clothesline. A mini-fortress of milk crates stacked under a tree. A thin mattress on a flimsy crate lying in a dark tunnel.

On the edge of Baltimore’s woodlands, dozens of the city’s transients live in makeshift homes which they consider safer than homeless shelters.

You can see some incredible photos of how these homeless people are living right here.

#3 A 50-year-old woman in Pennsylvania named Karen

“My husband only makes 10 dollars an hour and drives 30 miles round trip, so it’s taking all we have just to keep the Jeep filled with gas. We stopped going to church and all to save gas. We are homebodies now, afraid to use what gas we have. We save two kids from getting put in foster care just to be hit like this. It’s just a constant trap they try to keep you from receiving any help! I’m so disgusted when my 12-year-old asks me why we don’t have snacks anymore, or why are we eating so much rice, etc.”

#4 The following is an excerpt from a comment that was recently left by one of my readers

“I live right at ground zero. South West Virginia and let me tell you things are bad and getting worse by the day. We don’t do drugs but have family members hooked on meth and or pills or both. Many of these pills are prescribed by local doctors either Suboxone to get you off the opiates, a total joke by the way and tons of Xanax why would anyone need 120 Xanax a month how can you even be expected to function. These pills get traded for cash sex and other items, same goes for the SNAP cards. We have family members going to jail repeatedly for the same crimes making meth, selling pills and stealing anything that’s not nailed down. People who are 30 years old look like they are 55 years old. The jobs here are awful walmat, gas stations, fast food etc. Most of our whole county is on the government dole.”

#5 A 55-year-old man from California named Randy Carpadus

“I was working as a firefighter for the state of California and was laid off in April 2012, right at the beginning of fire season. At my age, I’m not going to be picked up by another fire department. They want younger guys.

I’ve applied for everything from truck driver, to sales, to nonprofit work. I’ve sent out almost 400 resumes, and I’ve gotten nothing. I’ve done whatever I could to make ends meet.

Through some connections, I got a temp job as a truck driver in Napa Valley — a 3-hour commute from where I live. I lived in my car and worked during grape harvest.”

#6 In this tough economic environment, debt collectors are becoming even more aggressive.  Just check out the kind of harassment that one woman named Jennifer Posey has been put through…

“This is Jimmy Lee calling from CheckCare. Just letting you know we’re in full force,” he said. The man had a thick Southern accent that stretched the word “you” into a two-syllable accusation. “We’re going to have warrants out for your arrest in Columbus, Ga.,” the man threatened. “We know you have an apartment on the canal in Clearwater.”

It was when he mentioned her home in Florida that Posey began to feel anxious. “We’re hurting you,” he continued. “We’re hurting your family, your son’s family, your cousin’s family. Whatever we can do to get you to pay.”

Forty minutes later, her phone rang again. “What about that 12-, 13-year-old child you’re trying to raise?” the voice sneered.

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  • February 11 at 12:20 pm
(Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
(Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The unemployment rate used to be a pretty straightforward economic indicator. It showed the percentage of people who want a job but don’t have one — one of the most basic measures of labor market health.

But the number has been acting in funny ways since the recession, and it just keeps getting weirder. The unemployment rate skyrocketed as millions of people lost their jobs during the darkest days of the financial crisis. That part makes sense. 

What is harder to understand is why the jobless rate has dropped substantially even though many workers do not have jobs. Solving that puzzle requires looking at more esoteric labor market data. Even newly minted Fed chief Janet Yellen said on Capitol Hill today that “we shouldn’t focus only on the unemployment rate.”

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