Tag Archives: jobless

Maine jobless rate 7.3% for November | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine jobless rate 7.3% for November | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

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Crossing fingers after phone interview marred by no bars, technical problem

I had a fairly good telephone job interview this morning, despite equipment problems on both ends.

And despite me stumbling over some of the questions.

Some of the problems started this morning when I tumbled out of bed and checked my cellular phone to make sure that it had charged overnight. I was immediately troubled to see no bars, not one.

“OK, don’t panic,” I said to myself, of course, leaving out here the expletives. “I’ll just whip up some congee, grab a shower, and check the bars again. Perhaps a T-Mobile tower is down or something and it will take a bit of time to get it up again. If all else fails, I’ll make a run to Starbucks, troll for a cell signal, and pirate some Wifi. And just sit in my CRV for the interview.”

Yes, I do sometimes have extended conversations with myself.

Congee, check.

Shower and shave, check.

Car keys, check.

Laptop and cell phone, check and check.

Cell phone bars, not so check. Still no bars.

So, off I went for the Starbucks. As I drove closer, I checked the bars and the signal seem to be coming in strong. Great!

I circled the Starbucks in the Miracle Mile in Stockton and head back to my apartment to go over notes before I planned to return to the Starbucks in time for my interview call.

Funny thing, though, as I drove back to the apartment – I started getting more bars. Eureka! A strong signal. Perhaps, just, perhaps, T-Mobile fixed the glitch and I’ll be able to receive the interview in a non-stressful environment sitting at my writing desk in the living room of my apartment.

There I sat for more than an hour going over “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – of which, the interviewers would later ask only one of the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – and tried to relax just a bit before my 9:45 a.m. call.

Everything was going well enough when I took another look at my cell phone at 9:30 a.m. and – PANIC! No bars, again! Ugh!

I scooped up my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, and my cell phone and headed downstairs to the garage. There I jumped into my CRV, cranked up the engine, and headed – at only slightly excessive speed – to the nearest Starbucks where earlier I had found a strong signal and where I could pirate WiFi. (I say “pirate,” but Starbucks provides free WiFi. Using “pirate” is an attempt at making me more edgy. Did it work?)

I parked in the same spot I had earlier, but the cell signal was at only two bars. I didn’t want an every-other-word experience during the interview. I drove around the block trolling for a stronger signal and found one – very nearly in the same spot I had been before going around the block. Time: 9:44 a.m.

OK, quick drink of water. Pull out the computer for the notes on the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview.” Pull out the pad of paper to write down the names of the people on the search committee conducting the interview. Go online for a quick check of email.

It was then that the phone rang. I let it ring again, popped open the cell phone, paused – “Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Nothing. Great! Well what else can go wrong?

I tried dialing back a couple of times, but all I got was the ear-piercing tone of a fax machine. Great!

OK, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic … DON’T PANIC!

Oh, wait, the phone’s ringing again.

“Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Oh, crap, not again.

One more attempt to call them. More piercing sounds. OK, OK, OK, I’ll shoot an email to the person who arranged the interview. Under the circumstances, maybe – just maybe – we can reschedule the telephone interview.

The email was very nearly set to send when the phone rang one more time. By this time it was five or 10 minutes after the scheduled appointment

OK, don’t panic. Let it ring again.

“Hello”

“Hello, Keith. Sorry for that bit of technical problem …,” said the woman on the other end.

Sheesh, that was close. I’ve been out of work for 20 months now and I cannot afford to miss an interview for any reason.

The half-hour interview went well enough, I think, especially since it took place over the phone as I sat in my CRV with a laptop balanced on my knees.

I stumbled on a few questions. It’s a marketing job and my experience is in straight-up journalism, but several of the interviewers have newspaper experience, so they may have cut me some slack. They gave me verbal feedback and laughed where they should have, so it wasn’t all bad at all.

The job would be with a leader in its field and I think skills I honed as a columnist, opinion page editor, editorialist, and essayist could come in handy. The problem would be in having time to write about all the positive aspects. That’s a bit of a change considering all my work experience is in newspaper where much of the news is not good.

Well, I’m crossing my fingers. It appears it will be about 30 days before I find out if I was selected, so I’ll be patient and continue my search in the meantime.

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25,000 Mainers may lose their jobless benefits | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME

25,000 Mainers may lose their jobless benefits | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME.

My best hasn’t been good enough – yet

 Today marks 20 months since I was laid off.

There are times it feels as if it happened just yesterday. Or a million years ago.

And there are other times when it feels as if this is all part of a very, very bad nightmare from which I will awake.

Eventually. Soon. … Anytime now.

In those 20 months I’ve sent out hundreds of resume packages, filled out countless applications, and uploaded my resume onto dozens of websites. I put in at least six to 12 hours every day seeking suitable employment. I look and look and look. I network. I blog. I lament.

And, so far, that effort has resulted in a handful of face-to-face interviews, a couple of phone interviews, and a few thanks-but-no-thanks rejection letters.

But no job offers.

Yet.

As it has been for so many Americans – still nearly 15 million Americans, in fact – finding work as been elusive – frustrating, maddening, demoralizing – and it doesn’t seem as if things are getting much better. The national unemployment rate is stuck at 9.6 percent and I live in a county in Northern California where the unemployment rate hovers at 16.6 percent.

I blame the Republicans. I blame the Democrats. I blame Wall Street bankers. I blame greedy industrialists.

I blame everyone, including myself.

After all, I should have peered into a crystal ball and seen coming the collapse of the newspaper industry – and the housing industry and the automobile industry and every other industry that isn’t Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft or … . Well, you get the point.

I blame myself because while I was working for a living, I neglected to take time off from work to train to be proficient in the latest necessary skills I might or might not need sometime in the distant or not-so-distant future.

Of course, “the latest necessary skills” fluctuate every couple of years so I suppose I could have worked for a year and taken more time off for training in “the latest necessary skills” and continued that cycle.

But no. I worked. For 22 years. In an industry that continues to undergo convulsions.

And now I have little to show for those 22 years of hard work. No income. No health insurance. No prospects.

And dwindling hope that I will find a new job before my Unemployment Insurance benefits expire at the beginning of 2011.

In the past 20 months people have told me “You have to reinvent yourself,” “You have to be entrepreneurial,” “You have to start your own business,” “You should write a book,” “You should …”.

You get the point. All great ideas, but reinvent myself into what? I don’t even balance my checkbook, how could I be an entrepreneur or start a business? And don’t people realize how many books are written and how very few are actually published?

But even after all the disappointment, all the setbacks, all the failed efforts, I still believe I can contribute in some way. I continue to seek suitable employment in newspapers or using my skills working for a nonprofit or in green industry or government. I keep seeking any escape from the way things are now so that I can get my life back on track.

I continue to follow the mantra – one step forward every day. One step forward today, tomorrow and the next day.

X marks the spot, but it has nothing to do with pirates

X marks the spot.

X marks the spot.

In ancient tales of pirates and their bold deeds, the ribbon of the stories’ plots with few exceptions twirled their way to one common element – booty.

No, not that “booty.”

Treasure, buried or otherwise – that’s the booty.

And with few exceptions, a map to the booty included an X to mark the location where the booty – the treasure – could be found. X marks the spot, the saying goes.

Inevitably, the map was either faked, or the X really didn’t mark the actual location of the treasure or mutiny and treachery prevented story stakeholders from learning the final disposition of the buried booty.

Or there was no treasure in the first place.

Of course, in most cases X didn’t actually mark the spot. Instead, it symbolized other things – greed mostly, but also dreams, aspirations, hope, and, since we are talking pirates, lots and lots of grog.

For me, however, an X this week meant a completely different thing.

It means that thread-worn safety net called unemployment insurance – simply UI for those of us unfortunate to have needed it – is coming to an end. Without further congressional action, many of the 15 million Americans out of work will also be out of luck.

You see, there is a box on the front of unemployment insurance continued claim form, under question No. 3, to be precise – that until this point had gone unfilled. The unemployment rate had been so high, the extensions coming, and other factors, that people legitimately out of work did not see the X in the box.

The X means someone on UI must turn over the form and fill in the information on the companies at which the claimant has applied for work. Seeking employment is a requirement of continued UI, but without the X to mark the spot, a claimant needed only answer “yes” to the question “Did you look for work?”

The X – along with the additional eligibility requirements for Federal-State Extended Duration Benefits, or Fed-Ed extension – means a claimant must provide the following information for potential employers contacted each week:

  • Date applied
  • Company name
  • Company address (Internet address is acceptable.)
  • Person contacted
  • Type of work applied
  • Results of the contact

The EDD knows that looking for work does not always mean an opportunity to fill out an application. But the requirements are what the requirements are and it means added anxiety and pressure to find at least three jobs each week for the form.

I wish there was buried booty where X marks the spot, but there is not. Where the X marks the spot are renewed feelings of failure, demoralization and concern for what the future may bring. It brings crashing down the house of cards that is the UI stopgap measure.

 EDD outsourcing their replies?

Here’s a sidebar to this whole thing. My latest continued claim form arrived last week, which was followed earlier this week by a form letter informing me of the number of employer contacts I needed to make each week – three.

The problem: The second form arrived too late for me to make adjustments for the first week, a week in which I applied for one job, but had a couple of phone interviews. The “three employer contact” rule seems reasonable – my personal goal each week was to apply for at least five jobs – but out of fairness to the claimant, the information should come along with the continued claim form.

I tried calling EDD to address my concerns, but calling the toll-free number led to a recorded message that provided another toll-free number, which led to another recorded message, that provided the first toll-free number. That, my friends, is a bureaucratic merry-go-round. There were no obvious options to be directed to a live person – although I since have been told that I should have dialed the first number and punched in 0 for an operator – so I went to the EDD website and used their online “Contact EDD” form.

I’m not sure, but EDD may have outsourced their reply services because the reply I received the next day was very nearly nonsensical. I asked several specific questions and received in reply: “Your feded [sic] claim was filed effective 09-XX-10 employers: on newpapers [sic], word of mouth, net working [sic], t.v., radio from friends and relatives maybe some of the source Good luck Thank you kindly.”

The reply – who in this country uses “thank you kindly” – failed to answer any of the questions I poised in my email to EDD. I suppose I’ll do the best I can to fill out the form this time around and pray that I am not determined ineligible. If I am determined ineligible, I suppose I could always search for buried treasure. … Now, where did I put that eye patch.

Snowe: Jobless aid not Senate break | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Snowe: Jobless aid not Senate break | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Michaud blasts Congress for adjourning without extending unemployment | Maine Public Broadcasting Network

Michaud blasts Congress for adjourning without extending unemployment | Maine Public Broadcasting Network

[For full disclosre, U.S. Rep. Michaud are not related, as far as I know. — KM]

Republicans block bill to continue benefits for millions with no job | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Republicans block bill to continue benefits for millions with no job | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

What? Your job is to help people find jobs?!

Here’s a little irony for you … well, quite a bit of irony, actually.

I’ve been looking for work for the past 15 months. After 22 years in the newspaper business, I was laid off. Over the course of that 22 years I have been a reporter, columnist, copy editor, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor, website staff writer, and blogger. I’ve been trying to find work, usually via online job boards and websites, networking via friends, LinkedIn and Facebook, and by simply keeping my ear to the ground.

I’ve been pretty open about the experience. At least, with my family, friends, and those of you who have visited “Letters From Away.” I’ve written about the frustration of the job search and the various pitfalls that have occurred in the past 15 months.

But I wasn’t very open with the other tenants of my apartment building. I don’t know any of them very well and I felt uncomfortable opening up about that sort of thing. And apparently some of them have not caught onto my blog, if you can believe that.

Anyway, I was walking down to the basement garage on Saturday when a guy who lives in one of the downstairs apartments came out.

“So, where are you working now?”

“I’m not,” I replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, today makes 15 months since I was laid off,” I informed him. A mix of surprise and shock flashed over his face.

“Listen, I think I can help. …”

I’ve been living in the same apartment building since late 2006 and out of work since March 5, 2009, and I had no idea that my neighbor worked for a county agency that helps people get back to work. One of the programs for which I may be eligible is a six-month, 50 percent salary grant where an employer would be reimbursed for 50 percent of a worker’s salary for six months.

That does a couple of things, of course. It gets workers into jobs, it gives the employer a worker and a chance to see what the employee can do to prove himself or herself in a job and it gives a little time for the economy a little time to come around so that at the end of the six months the employee has a better chance to be held on permanently.

 I’m not exactly sure what else the neighbor or the agency can do to help me, but I have an appointment to talk with the guy tomorrow.

A quarter of children in 3 counties at high risk level | Bangor Daily News

A quarter of children in 3 counties at high risk level – Bangor Daily News

[This has far more details on the proverty situation in Maine. — KM]

Report: 1 in 5 Maine kids live in poverty | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Report: 1 in 5 Maine kids live in poverty | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Maine jobless rate rises slightly in February to 8.3% | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine jobless rate rises slightly in February to 8.3% | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Comfort food helps ease the sting of rejection

I’m feeling a little piled on lately when it comes to rejection. I batted 1.000 at the end of this week – a rejection notice each on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

I’m not sure if it would have been any better if they had all arrived on the same day or if they had come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or if one of the notices had arrived today, Saturday.

I might have taken it hard – at least, harder than I am anyway – if I had not already moved all three of those jobs into my “REJECTION” folder on my laptop. I give jobs – or, rather, the agencies, organizations or businesses posting a job opening – about one month or so after applying for the job before pretty much giving up on that job. If I don’t hear back from them, I then move the job from “PENDING” to “REJECTION.” It had been a month or longer for all three without hearing anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Note to human resources officials: Let job seekers know if you receive applications and resume packets, and give them a reasonable timeframe in which the hiring process will be carried out. That is especially true when the economy and jobs outlook is so tenuous, as it is now. It borders on cruel and unusual behavior to not contact people who are so very desperate.

I know, I know, I know, some openings draw many applicants. One of the rejection notices I received this week noted that the agency had received about 400 resumes for one opening. But some online or email application processes include an automatic reply that applications or resumes have been received. Including a mention in the email of a hiring process timeframe seems a reasonable request.

To be fair to the three organizations that rejected me last week, others did not even bother to acknowledge receipt of applications and resume packets. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Listen, we jobseekers knows that you receive hundreds of applications and resume packets – we know, because we are the ones sending out hundreds of resume packets. We’re not asking for false hope, we’re just asking to be given word within a reasonable time whether we can expect to hear about our chances.

Note to human resources officials: I know there must be a reason – low-balling applicants seems the only reason, but there may be real reasons – for not including the salary range on job notices. But including such information helps a jobseeker sort through the openings he or she plans to apply for, thus eliminating for some potential employers a bit of the flood of applications and resumes for certain jobs.

Jobseekers’ time is valuable, too. It is incredibly demoralizing to go through the process of writing a cover letter, individualizing resumes and arranging references for a job opening only to find out midway or later in the process that the salary range cannot support a jobseekers’ cost of living.

I’m not talking extras, just the cost of living. In the past year I have applied for several jobs for which I later learned the accompanying salary would not or would barely cover just basic expenses, let alone health insurance or investment in retirement accounts.

OK, enough of the mini-rant on the job search. I remain optimistic that I will find a job, but not as optimistic as I once was. I am concerned before I find a job I will be forced into to find training for a career change. Which might not be a bad thing.

Oh, how did I handle the rejection? I made myself a very nice, hearty meal that turned around my attitude so I felt considerably – quite considerably – less rejected.

Here’s a tip, if you’re feeling a touch low, sauté some turkey sausage and onions and throw in some legumes, rice, spinach, carrots, garlic and chicken broth. Let it simmer so the aroma fills the home and then serve yourself a large bowl. Top with croutons and Asiago and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Comfort food is there to comfort, so let it do its work.

I’ve been a very, very bad blogger

It is clear to me that I have been a very, very bad blogger the past couple of weeks.

In many ways I have completely failed. But in a few others I think I have excelled.

Well, “excelled” may be a bit much, so let us agree that I have not done as well at some things as I have others. And I vow to strive to do better at the things I failed to do well, while continuing to do the things that I might have done better than, well, the things I did not do so well. Well …

What I have not done well lately is write fresh, new content for this blog about Maine and Mainers from a perspective of someone “from away.”  It has not been because of so-called writer’s block or want of trying. It simply has been a matter of time and not seeming to have any to write new content.

Frankly, I am still getting over the holiday haze, but now am looking forward to what great and special things will happen in 2010. Top among those things is finding employment. I am hungry to get back to work.

If you have read this blog before – I am a “blogger,” but what are people who read blogs? – you will know that I have been out of work since March 2009. I was laid off after 22 years working in the newspaper industry. And you would have to be from the dark side of the moon not to know that the newspaper industry has been hit very hard the past couple of years – continued high costs of paper and other materials, continued high profit margins for stockholders, lower revenue due to lower advertising sales due to the housing crisis and the auto industry crisis and the national economy crisis.

Leaders in the newspaper industry failed to heed the warnings that came to them a decade or two ago that a new age in information dissemination was coming – the Age of the Internet – and they made little effort to adjust. And what little effort they made came much too late for tens of thousands of very talented people in journalism and for many newspapers which have now long ago shut down their presses. I blame newspaper owners and publishers the most, although everyone in the industry has a share of the blame.

Because of all that I have been looking not only for a newspaper job, but for employment in the nonprofit or government sectors. There is a chance that what they used to say is still true, that writing skills are appreciated in very nearly any field. I am not 100 percent convince that is true given the traditionally low salaries in newspapers and other media, the decreasing salaries in newspapers, other media and for freelancers, and the low wages for “writers” in industries in which writers are not traditionally thought to work. And the disintegration of language because of what passes as “allowed” writing in emails, texting, blogs and other electronic media belittles and besmirches what professional writers do. That is the way of the universe.

And I also have given thought to returning to college to earn a master’s degree in another field, perhaps pubic administration. I believe I would go with an emphasis in nonprofit management over government agency management, because for some time I have wanted to do something for the greater good and working for a nonprofit has the feel of doing something more directly good for people.

What I think I have done fairly well for the past couple of months is to: 1) aggregate news about Maine from various sources, usually from Maine newspaper websites; and 2) post stories and other information about the plight of the people in Haiti following the earthquake last month.

Of the former, I usually have posted a headline of a story of interest and maybe some comment along with a link back to the newspaper’s website. I sometimes use the share feature on newspaper websites and sometimes the effort requires a little more work than that, but I always link back to the newspaper so the newspaper is getting the Web visit and the full credit. I gain nothing from the exercise other than keeping idle hands busy.

Of the latter, the effort to help spread information on what happened, what is happening, and what people can do to help Haitians seems a very tiny effort comparatively speaking. I wish I could do more. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and we have an obligation – not as Americans, not as members of one of the richest nations in the world, but as fellow human beings – to do what we can to help. Mainers have represented themselves well in the effort to help Haitians and it makes this Mainer “from away” proud to post those stories of Mainers’ efforts.

When I started this blog only a few short months ago, the intention was to write about and comment upon Maine and Mainers from the perspective of a person now “from away.” I had planned to comment each day.

Things have been hectic lately and sometimes it is a bit overwhelming to try to live up to my own intensions.

But I will strive to be more diligent about updating my blog.

Come back to Letters From Away every so often, won’t you.

Maine lawmakers call for jobs bill

Maine lawmakers call for jobs bill

Grant to help unemployed Mainers pay insurance

Grant to help unemployed Mainers pay insurance

Ungrateful, greedy banking industry can’t take this away – yet

I am very probably like many Americans just now. I am wondering how the U.S. banking industry can show such filthy ungratefulness and bottomless greed.

First, it contributed significantly to the housing crisis and the economic woes we as a nation have suffered the past few years.

Second, the government bailed out the industry.

Third, to end-game credit card and banking reforms, the banking industry drove up interest rates and added excessive, oppressive fees to banking and credit card services.

Fourth, excessive bonuses continued to go to the very people who helped create the problem in the first place.

Yes, the country likely would have been in a far worse situation if the government had not bailed out banking institutions, but the hedonistic greed and gluttony must stop or the banking industry is likely to see a fiscal revolution the likes of which it cannot imagine. I am already planning on moving my banking and credit card services to smaller, more personal community financial institutions. It will be a fraction of a drop in the bucket, but it is my own very tiny protest against the indifference, greed and ungratefulness.

And here is another very tiny protest – I am keeping good credit despite having been out of work for nearly a year! I just opened a quarterly credit report from one of my credit card companies. I continue to have a credit rating in the high 700s.

The dirty, ungrateful, greedy banking industry can’t take away that – yet

Frankly, I was amazed, even though I shouldn’t be. I have been pretty good about avoiding the use of credit cards since being laid off from a newspaper job in Stockton, Calif., so the balances on my several credit cards generally go up only due to interest – which is a killer – or because of new fees – which is cranking me up quite a bit.

And for the past couple of years I have been making larger payments to pay down the credit card balances built during a part of my career when I was not being adequately paid. I depended on the credit cards for necessities – food.

Looking at the credit rating, the big three – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – each had me in the high 700s for the first fiscal quarter. Each of them showed a 3-point reduction in the second quarter, which was the first full quarter that I was without a job. I used the credit card to purchase a laptop computer and other items needed for the job hunt, so there were charges placed on my various credit cards. And, unfortunately, I could only make minimum payments.

But as unemployment continued, I shied away from using credit cards at all, I do not have a mortgage payment and I am rather stoic in my spending, even before being laid off.

To my surprise, two of the credit agencies showed my score in the third fiscal quarter as constant to what it was the previous quarter and Equifax upped my score by 8 points!

I held my own in the fourth quarter, too. There was no change up or down in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

While I doubt I will be able to hold this credit rating steady if unemployment continues for very much longer, I find it terribly positive that I have been able to maintain excellent credit it a time of personal and national economic upheaval.

I, therefore, pat myself on the back. Someone has to.

Jobless rate down in Maine, but not everywhere

Spotted a story on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network website about how the unemployment rate in Maine had dipped to 8 percent.

That is below the national rate of about 10 percent.

Here in California things are not so good. The statewide unemployment rate is at 12.2 percent and the county in which I live – San Joaquin County – it is at about 16.9 percent unemployment. Yep, that’s twice the rate of Maine.

I’ve linked the MPBN story and the story from The Record, the newspaper in Stockton, about the situation here. (Note: That newspaper will begin charging for content beginning in January so the link very likely will go bad after the new year.)