MainStreet.com has done an interesting series of vignettes on the varied ways that people have made the most of their layoffs.
In The Upside of Unemployment, you'll read about:
* A Michigan woman whose pregnancy coincided with her layoff. She ended up enjoying an "extended maternity leave."
* A commercial real estate analyst who used his unemployment benefits and severance to help launch his own organic beer, something he'd already been working on nights and weekends. When his company began a round of layoffs, he recognized the opportunity and asked to be laid off because he knew he needed to devote more time to ensure the success of his side business.
* A Des Moines woman who discovered that both she and her children would be eligible for a free year of schooling at her local community college due to her reduced income after layoff.
* Newlyweds who decided to leave their jobs together and travel the world. They took the money they received from their wedding, along with what they'd saved for a new house, and went on an extended honeymoon, figuring they didn't really need a house just yet.
* A former Lehman Brothers investment banker who chose to use his free time after a layoff to write a book: about his old employer.
* A former Goldman Sachs employee who joined a gym after her layoff and went from a size 16 to a size 6. She approached going to the gym, she said, like going to a job.
* A woman whose layoff occurred at a time when her mother was very ill and went into hospice care. Having no job meant that she was able to sit with her mother daily without the stress of worrying about her work backing up at the office and she was able to focus on being with her mother in her time of need.
* Another man who used his severance to travel. He earned money by blogging about his travels at http://www.NoDebtWorldTravel.com.
These are all wonderful examples of people who were able to pursue their personal interests, test their entrepreneurial skills or devote more time to family. While there is usually an element of risk involved in trying something new without a steady paycheck to back you up, many of those quoted in this story held high-paying jobs and relied on what were probably hefty severance packages to finance their pursuits.
If you were laid off this week, could you afford to indulge in long-held dreams like travel, or would you have to focus on mere survival?
Viewing the 'Coping With Joblessness' Category
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says we should count on the unemployment rate to average a little over 10% for the first six months of 2010, and that it probably won't fall below 9% until 2012. The CBO doesn't anticipate a "natural" rate of unemployment, about 5.3%, until 2014.
Economic growth, the CBO said, "is expected to be slightly faster during the first half of 2010 but slightly slower during the rest of 2010 and in 2011."
The CBO acknowledged the difficulty of predicting the future course of inflation as well as how successful various economic policy changes made by Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury will be as they gradually phase out in the next few years.
You may find me flipping burgers at McDonald's.
I was browsing Linked In this morning, scanning postings in various groups I belong to, including the Connecticut Job Openings group. There was a note posted several months ago that's still drawing replies, 907 at last count. It's an invitation to job-hunters to provide a brief profile of themselves, their geographic location and the kind of job they're seeking.
Confirming what we already know, the recession has stolen jobs from a widely diverse group of workers, from newly minted college grads to veterans of their industries, from those just trying to gain a leg hold that could somehow morph into a real career to senior-level managers hoping to replace a six-figure salary.
Here's a sampling of who's looking for work:
- An accounts payable specialist in central Florida
- An EMMY award-wining videographer from Denver
- A laboratory life scientist in Washington, D.C.
- A media consultant in Atlanta
- A senior construction manager in San Antonio
- A mechanical engineer in East Texas
- A trilingual paralegal in Atlanta
- An MBA student willing to relocate "anywhere in the world" for an entry-level management position
- A petrophysicist from Houston
- An interior designer from San Diego
- A medical salesman from the upper Midwest
- A finance manager in North Carolina
- A publications assistant seeking work in Washington, DC, Chicago or Seattle
For some, the status of American jobs is an abstract concept built around the latest unemployment figures. According to November data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan's 14.7% unemployment is the highest in the nation, while North Dakota has the lowest unemployment at 4.1%.
In the Wall Street Journal's long-running Laid Off and Looking blog, highly educated MBAs cope with depression, remind themselves not to take their spouse's support for granted, wonder how to overcome job anxiety during the holidays and consider ways to bypass the enforced anonymity of the online job application.
A New York Times poll of 708 jobless individuals reported December 14 that:
* More than half of unemployed Americans have borrowed money from family or friends
* More than half cut back on healthcare because they were out of work
* Almost half suffered from depression or anxiety
* 55% suffered from insomnia
* Nearly half said their financial troubles were so severe they feared they would fall out of their social class
* 40% said they had moved or were thinking of moving to another part of the country to find a job
* More than two-thirds considered or are considering a career change
Chances are, you know at least one unemployed person, if not more. We know the job market will improve with time, but for some of those living in the present, their immediate prospects appear grim. So the next time you see a jobless person, give 'em a hug.
Unemployed workers may get an early holiday gift this year if the Senate votes its approval of the COBRA health insurance subsidy extension just approved by the House.
Without action, the 65% subsidy of COBRA health insurance would expire at the end of this year. By passing the extension of the subsidy for another six months, or 15 months in total, an estimated seven million jobless Americans could see their stress levels eased as the federal government picks up 65% of COBRA monthly premiums.
The COBRA subsidy was originally designed to last for up to nine months for the millions who lost their jobs in massive layoffs between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 and who had an income of less than $145,000 for individuals or $290,000 for families.
Without the subsidy, COBRA coverage eats up 83% of the average unemployment check, pushing many families to drop health coverage altogether, according to Families USA, a consumer healthcare advocacy organization.
The imminent loss of the subsidy for many of the program's earliest recipients last month spurred Congress to scramble before their holiday recess. The subsidy meant that a $1,111 monthly premium for the average family became a more manageable $389 monthly premium, according to Families USA. (Here in Connecticut, I'm paying $173 a month as an individual.)
Even if you've already received the COBRA subsidy for the full nine months and have began paying the full cost of insurance, passage of the extension would mean you could retroactively restore the subsidy for the remainder of the 15-month period.
As Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, pointed out, the COBRA subsidy extension is simply a stop-gap measure. "Once health reform passes, this will no longer be a problem," he said, although even if some sort of health care reform is passed, it will not likely go into effect immediately.
The COBRA subsidy extension, which is part of a $636 billion Defense appropriations bill, would also enable workers laid off through February 2010 to be eligible for the subsidy. The Senate vote is expected tomorrow.
The COBRA subsidy is money well spent and a lifeline for many who are just a premium payment away from a healthcare disaster. While billions of taxpayer bailout money benefited car-makers, insurance giants and banks (many of which accepted TARP money even as they stepped up efforts to recoup lost profits from the sub-prime mortgage crisis on the backs of consumers, on the eve of new credit card reform), the COBRA subsidy is helping everyday Americans survive one of the deepest recessions this country has seen.
Do you support extension of the COBRA healthcare subsidy extension?