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Survival jobs: A temporary strategy is becoming the new normal

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Survival jobs: A temporary strategy is becoming the new normal

Post by Guest on Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:13 am

Survival jobs: A temporary strategy is becoming the new normal

By Mary Delach Leonard, Beacon staff

Posted 10:46 am Thu., 4.21.11

The job -- working nights for a contractor remodeling a Walmart store
-- is physically demanding and an hour's drive from Kevin Wilson's home
in St. Louis.

The pay -- $15 an hour -- is half as much as he made in his worst year in business management.

In the language of unemployment, this would be
considered a "survival job." But Wilson, 51, who was laid off in spring
2009, was glad to get it, even though moving and rebuilding store
counters is strenuous labor -- not something he's done much of in recent
years. The pay is about twice as much as Wilson said he took home in
unemployment benefits.

"I'm not afraid of physical work," Wilson said, adding that in his youth he helped his dad, a "weekend farmer" in South Dakota.

Of course, that was a college degree and several decades of business experience ago.

Wilson takes a pragmatic view.

"I need to be doing something," he said. "You can
only sit at home or try to make networking contacts and respond to want
ads so long before you start losing your edge."

Nearly two years into his job search, Wilson said it is important to keep moving. To keep plugging away.

On Tuesday mornings, for example, he attends the GO!
Network, a support and networking group for out-of-work business
professionals that meets downtown at the St. Patrick Center. Wilson
volunteers as chairman of the group's program committee.

Like many of his colleagues at GO! Network, Wilson
lost his job after the financial meltdown of 2008, when businesses were
shedding workers by the thousands. Wilson, who was employed by a firm
that provided consultants to small and medium-sized businesses, said his
assignments simply stopped coming.

Last year, Wilson worked several months for the U.S.
Census, another survival job that allowed him to temporarily go off

By his own description, Wilson is "severely
underemployed" -- a status shared by countless working- and middle-class
Americans who are still struggling in the aftermath of the Great
Recession that economists say ended in June 2009.

While there is no official tally of the number of
Americans who, like Wilson, are working survival jobs, the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics does track "persons employed part time for economic
reasons." In March, 8.4 million people were working part time because
their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a
full-time job.

The loss of the 'middle' ground

One can argue that an unemployment rate of 8.8
percent means that more than 90 percent of Americans are working. But
those percentages don't tell the personal story of the 6.1 million
Americans identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as long-term
unemployed: out of work for 27 or more weeks.

And those numbers don't include the so-called 99ers
-- Americans who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and no
longer show up in the Labor Department's statistics. Estimates for 99ers
range from just under 2 million to more than 5 million Americans.



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