An article in Saturday’s New York Times broke my heart. It’s entitled “Caught in Unemployment’s Revolving Door.” Included in the wide-ranging piece is a short profile on Jenner Barrington-Ward, a 53 year-old college graduate who worked steadily from her twenties on, then lost her administrative job at M.I.T. in 2008. She has been jobless ever since and has filed for bankruptcy because she’s severely in debt and made less than $5,000 last year. Now she’s homeless.
Despite applying for thousands of jobs, including at fast food joints and janitorial services, no one will hire Jenner. Economists aren’t surprised either. Her unemployment has her stuck in a horrible loop, they say; employers prefer to hire people who are already have jobs.
Adding insult to injury, Jenner has come close to getting employment a couple of times, but a credit check ruined her chances. In a more recent instance, the company went with a temp.
This situation is more common than we want to think. My mother, bless her heart, was laid off in 2008 from an administrative job just like Jenner and just like a lot of people in the United States. I include myself in that group of laid off-ees, though mine happened technically in January of 2009 . Luckily my skills as an editor allowed me to break into the freelance world with ease. But what do people like Jenner or my mom do if they worked a regular job for many years and now have to start over?
Nothing I’m saying here is new. I get that. But the frustration is real. So is the fear.
The evening news occasionally has somebody on who’s found a way to “do it for themselves,” as the old folks like to say. And that’s nice. I’m glad somebody’s at-home calligraphy business or online t-shirt store took off and allowed him or her to get out of foreclosure or pay their kid’s tuition that semester. But what about everybody else?
What’s more, the demographic for folks who are feeling the effects of this thing is scarily ticking downwards. And it’s not just happening here. Can you imagine how many more parents’ basements will be housing 30 year-old college graduates during the 2020 census?
Nope, I don’t want to think about it either.