Recently I was on an extended weekend in rural North Carolina. While I had spent many a weekend in this rural area over the years it was during this visit that I saw something that I had never seen before. There at an intersection was a man with a sign seeking a handout. Now living in Central Florida panhandlers are a frequent citing as busy intersections. But here in rural North Carolina where you cannot throw a rock without hitting a church this is unusual. Rural North Carolina is a place where I can leave my car unlocked at night. While I do not think that churches should be responsible for panhandlers nor that panhandlers have any criminal intent my seeing a panhandler in rural Smokey Mountains is was not something I had ever seen before.
My obvious question was why is the person panhandling instead of working? After all we are years away from the recession. Every day takes us further from the Recession. Things have been getting better, after all the U.S, Department of Labor (DOL) has consistently reported job growth and unemployment has been moving down. Rural states like North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota have high paying jobs with the lowest unemployment in the nation.
While the DOL keeps an upbeat picture that things are moving in the right direction, we may not return to the way things used to be. Looking past the upside there are some ugly realities. There remain millions of long term unemployed. Job growth since the recession has been largely in low paying sector jobs. Especially hard hit are older workers who lost their good job during the recession and those jobs have not come back. These unemployed have begrudgingly sought any job that will hire them.
It is true that over the last 34 months there have been 6.1 million jobs added to the economy since the recession ended however, there are still 2 million fewer Americans working than prior to the recession. Many have simply given up.
It is not just the unemployed. Last week I had a conversation with a financial adviser. We were discussing the strong overall performance of the stock market. He said that many American companies are performing better than ever and have strong balance sheets. The reason for the strong balance sheet at least in part is that companies had trimmed away so many employees during the recession those workers that remained had little choice but to take on the extra work or face unemployment. While the stock market has fully recovered from the recession the job market has not. If a worker complains about being overworked there were many unemployed willing to take their job.
There are several employed professionals that I know who have little faith in the post recession recovery. They feel under appreciated in the workplace and privately complain about heavier work loads and being underpaid. There is even a term for this- it is called Recession Fatigue. Their upside is they have a job. Clearly the post recession recovery and unemployment is a very complicated matter. With that said, I should expect to see more things I have never seen before.
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