Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=114963
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 6:48:44 AM CST
The jobs data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics painted a somber picture. The unemployment rate climbed to 7.6 percent in January from 7.2 percent in December, while U.S. non-farm payrolls suffered a staggering loss of 598,000 jobs—the biggest drop in one month since 1974.
Illinois' jobless rate for January won't be released until March, but economists expect it will surpass the national figure, as it did in December with a 7.6 percent unemployment rate.
Unemployed Chicagoans are living these statistics and bracing themselves for a long economic trudge ahead. Many have discovered that searching for a job in a recession requires a deep reservoir of humility and perseverance.
Lincoln Park resident Gabe Torres, 25, received a two-month severance package when he lost his account coordinator position at a marketing agency in August. Torres said that due to his own “laziness” and belief that he could get easily job that “pays the bills, like Home Depot or Best Buy,” he delayed his job search until December.
Since then, Torres has realized that the job market is much tougher than he thought—so tough that Torres has concluded that personal networks of family and friends may be the only way to find employment. He’s been politely asking friends for job leads and is selling a friend’s car to earn a cut of the profit.
“Because so many people are unemployed, a random cover letter, resume or job response to some post you see online isn’t going to cut it anymore,” Torres said. “Without the network that someone has, I don’t think they really have much of a chance of getting anything, regardless of their education or their experience.”
Another Chicagoan, Lenita Griffis-Browning, was discharged in July from her managerial post at a beauty product company. She e-mailed everyone in her address book to let them know that she was on the job hunt and pursued diverse positions, both in Chicago and across the country.
“I applied for anything, anywhere making at least $25,000 if I had a friend living in that city,” she said. “I tried from LA, to Phoenix, to New Jersey, to South Carolina, to Florida. Every place that I had a good friend, I would apply.”
Torres’ and Griffis-Browning’s employment struggles are part of what Adolfo Laurenti, senior economist with Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., termed a “very broad-based” recession that “is causing a lot of pain” for people of all races, classes, ages and backgrounds.
However, Laurenti discounted alarmist notions that the nation is headed towards an economic catastrophe.
“I do not want to exacerbate the sentiments that this is going to be another Great Depression,” he said. “I don’t think that in this moment we are heading to a catastrophic trajectory.”
Laurenti predicted “more tolerable” job loss numbers below 200,000 per month by the end of the summer, but said more people will be losing jobs than gaining them until sometime in 2010.
This week, Griffis-Brownings received news that she will finally be among the job gainers. After 9 months of searching, she has landed a position hundreds of miles away as chair of a cosmetology education program at a South Carolina college. Buoyed by this new development, Griffis-Browning advised other job seekers to hold out hope.
“Sometimes we kind of implode and shut down, but what you have to do is stay in motion, and keep trying things and believe that nothing is beneath you,” she said. “There will always be another opportunity as long as you keep getting up.”