Tag Archives: joblessness

Anniversary that just isn’t worth cotton, paper or China

The traditional gift for the second anniversary is supposed to be cotton. Unless you are in the United Kingdom and then it is paper. (Those Brits are always throwing a wrench in things.)

Of course, a modern gift for the second anniversary is China.

Today I am “celebrating” a second anniversary that is not worth any of those gifts. Today marks two years since I was laid off from work after 22 years in journalism.

It has been a time of disappointment, discouragement, loss, fear and sadness. It also has been a time of growth, I think. But someone else can judge that, because “they” always do.

I do not want to belabor this whole unemployment thing. (Or should I write that I do not want to belabor the lack of labor?) I already have written about losing my job and the struggles searching for a job for which a prospective employer likely looks at me as “overqualified” – and, therefore, thought to want a large salary that would cause a strain on his or her budget for wages – or “undertrained” – which is probable for anyone born in a time when televisions still used tubes, not transistors.

I continue to be frustrated in my considerable effort to find suitable work. I continue to apply for openings in journalism since that is the vocation for which I am trained. I also look for employment with nonprofits, environmental and green industries, colleges and universities, and local, state and federal governments.

No luck … yet.

But news about the economy is getting better. … Isn’t it?

There are 13.7 million Americans out of work. That figure is twice what it was before The Great Recession, but lower than it had been. That is an improvement. … Why does it not feel like an improvement?

I have run through my Unemployment Insurance benefits and now I am living on the money from a small IRA. I do pray – I have been doing more praying – that I will find a job before that money runs out. Not really sure what will happen when I run out of that money, but it very likely will include moving out of California.

But I will get by. Somehow.

Anyway, I really did not want to spend too much time at this. The second anniversary really does not mean anything. Not really.

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Maine unemployment rate drops in October | Bangor Daily News

Maine unemployment rate drops in October | Bangor Daily News.

Jobless rate drops in 18 states, rises in Maine | Bangor Daily News

Jobless rate drops in 18 states, rises in Maine – Bangor Daily News.

top50employment may 2010

Long-term unemployment cripples the economy | National Voices – Modbee.com

[The piece I shared with you all earlier this week was picked up by the Modesto Bee after Reporter Opinion Page Editor Karen Nolan shared it with the National Conference of Editorial Writers. I hear a couple of other newspapers plan to use it. … This is the closest I have been or ever will be to being a syndicated columnist.  — KM]

Long-term unemployment cripples the economy – National Voices – Modbee.com.

Anger, frustration from longterm unemployment

The Reporter was gracious enough to again print something I wrote. It’s a bit more personal than the last piece they published.

http://www.thereporter.com/opinion/ci_15710395

If that link doesn’t work, try this one.

http://keithmichaud.wordpress.com/writing/

Or you can simply read it here:

Anger, frustration from longterm unemployment | The Reporter, Vacaville, Calif.

Posted: 08/08/2010 01:04:20 AM PDT

By Keith Michaud

There is no feeling quite like the one that comes from long-term unemployment, especially for a person willing, able and hungry to get back to work.

Thursday marked 17 months since I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business, working as a writer and editor for print and Web sites.

At no time in those two decades – actually, at no time in my life – have I felt this demoralized, this useless, this much a burden on society. Never before have I felt such a void of confidence. Never before have I been without health insurance.

What? You don’t care if I’m demoralized, lacking in confidence or have no health insurance? Well, then be uncaring enough for every one of the 14.6 million unemployed Americans.

I know things will improve. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote so in a New York Times op-ed piece on Monday. But how much longer will it be before the economy really, truly turns around? How much longer will corporate America turn an uncaring shoulder to hard-working Americans who have no jobs?

Corporations are holding onto trillions of dollars, some say over concerns about possible future federal regulations. It is hard to believe that U.S. firms can be so callous, so shortsighted.

Meanwhile, those millions of Americans – of which 6.8 million are considered long-term unemployed – go without work. Members of that latter group are endangered of becoming unemployable because corporations insist on hiring Americans who are already working or who were only recently laid off and whose skills are considered sharper.

I am frustrated and mad that I was laid off in the first place. I am frustrated and mad because my job search has been protracted. I am frustrated and mad because corporations – mostly Wall Street bankers and the like – received huge federal bailouts and then turned around to pay executives millions of dollars in bonuses for finding innumerable ways to charge consumers new fees. I am frustrated and mad that Congress took so long to extend unemployment insurance benefits. Democrats and Republicans alike let down Americans across the land.

I am frustrated and mad that the U.S. Federal Reserve is failing in one of its main objectives, zero unemployment. I am frustrated and mad that my next-best option is to clear out a meager personal retirement fund, lean on credit cards, and depend on family and friends who themselves are struggling.

Long-term unemployment does more than demoralize the unemployed. It demoralizes their families, concerns their friends and causes worry even among their former co-workers. Long-term unemployment hurts the economy by eliminating consumer spending and making a downsized economy the norm. Long-term unemployment undermines this country by impeding economic recovery.

Without care for the unemployed, without job creation, without bold effort by politicians and corporate America, we can expect the economy on all levels to shrink and for unemployment to rise.

We 14.6 million unemployed are frustrated and mad, but we lack a focused voice. We, too, must be bold. We must shame the Obama administration, Congress, the Federal Reserve, and especially corporate America to get Americans back to work. There should be no comfort, no vacations, no getaways until the unemployment rate is halved.

The author, a journalist for 23 years and Reporter employee from 1993 to 2006, lives in Stockton, Calif.

Unemployment takes a toll | The Reporter

[The newspaper where I worked for more than 13 years  and where I served as the opinion page editor for several years was gracious enough to publish a commentary I wrote in the paper’s Sunday Op-Ed section. There is a typo at the beginning of the second sentence of the online version of the piece, which I’m guessing happened when they converted it for the website. Please ignore the X. Thanks. — KM]

Unemployment takes a toll – The Reporter, July 11, 2010.

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Unemployed must wait for benefits | Bangor Daily News

Unemployed must wait for benefits – Bangor Daily News.

Maine jobs news good, but still leaves cause for concern | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Our View: Job news good, but still leaves cause for concern | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Just another day as an unemployed journalist — another step forward

I hate this. I absolutely hate this!

Today makes 14 months since I was laid off from my job at The Record in Stockton, Calif. That is one year and two months; or 56 weeks; or 417 days; or 10,008 hours, give or take; 600,480 minutes.

Give or take. But who’s counting. Phew! …

I’ve written about this before, so I won’t belabor this too much. To make a long story – at 14-month long story – short, I had been a journalist at mid-sized newspapers in Northern California for 22 years. I had been working at The Record since 2006 when I was laid off March 5, 2009.

Underestimating the severity of the downward dive in the economy, I assumed that I would be back to work within three months or so if I made finding a job my job. But three months came and went. And then six months. And nine months. And one year. Now, 14 months.

I have been looking for work every since – at newspapers, wire services, online news services, governments, green industries, nonprofits. I recently applied for a job at a greeting card company, which I’m sure my newspaper buddies will find as ironic as I find ironic. I mean, a long-time curmudgeonly crime and chaos reporter turned curmudgeonly copy editor turned curmudgeonly columnist turned curmudgeonly assistant news editor turned curmudgeonly opinion page editor – you get the point – is not your typical greeting card employee.

Over-qualified or undertrained, that’s been part of my problem. Oh, and trying to find a job in a really shitty economy doesn’t help.

I have applied for hundreds of jobs from sea to shining sea. Seriously, sea to shining sea, and a few places in between. My job search has centered on the West – California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Washington state – and my native New England – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Frankly, I’ve noticed that the greater the distance the job opening, the lower the chances that I’ll even get an email telling thanks, but no thanks, but I keep trying. Everything has to be about making a step forward every single day.

But – again, frankly – momentum has been a problem. The holidays took a bit of the wind out of my momentum sail – too many three-day weekends that stretched into four-day segments when job websites didn’t post new openings. And – again, frankly – there usually wasn’t many job openings to be posted, even without three-day weekends that stretched into four days.

But things are changing. Or so they say. The economy is picking up. Or so they say. And businesses and nonprofits and governments and everyone is hiring or at least planning on hiring. Or so they say.

I have noticed more and more job openings being posted on job websites and more friends and acquaintances are passing along more job openings.

And I am again gaining momentum and applying for more jobs. I even feel confident enough to be relatively selective in my job pursuit – the greeting card application notwithstanding. (Very frankly, that job would be pretty cool, despite the irony of a crusty, dusty newspaperman participating in something as soft and fluffy as the greeting card biz.)

I’m fed up with being unemployed.

I’m hungry to get back to work.

I’m ready, willing and able to get back to work.

I’m just hunting for a break.

I’m sure that I will be working again. I just want it to be now. Now would be good.

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Maine program tries to halt foreclosure before it’s too late | Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — Abiel and Bettyjo Martinez bought a home in Etna in 2005 with an adjustable rate mortgage, the only loan they were eligible for.

In two years, their interest rate ballooned to 12 percent and their monthly payment nearly doubled from $900 to $1,700.

They scraped by for a while until Abiel Martinez lost his job and watched several months pass before he could collect unemployment. Then his wife lost her job. So they went back to their lender to modify their loan.

“They told us we could modify, but we had to pay $3,800 to start that process,” he said. “How can we pay $3,800 if we can’t afford the mortgage?”

The mortgage company had no choice but to start foreclosure proceedings. The Martinezes and their three children were in danger of being forced from their home.

Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Eric Russell in the Bangor Daily News.

Information about the state’s foreclosure diversion program is available at http://www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/services/foreclosure/index.html.

January jobless rate rises to 8.2% in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

January jobless rate rises to 8.2% in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Laid-off journalist being a tiny bit whiny

Some anniversaries simply are not meant to be celebrated. The death of a loved one. The start of war. The day reality TV started. These are anniversaries best not noted.

Today is one of those days, at least for me.

But I’m going to note it anyway.

It was one year today that I was laid off. Before that I had been in the newspaper industry for 22 years working as a reporter, copy editor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor and website staff writer. The only other time I had been laid off was from a restaurant table-busing job I had in college and that was because I took off with little notice for about a month to work at my other summer job as a wildland firefighter.

A beautiful and beautifully talented woman who was laid off the same day from the same newspaper calls it a “canniversary” – a year since being canned. She is among the very lucky; she counts being laid off as a blessing because she found a new career outside of the newspaper industry doing things that she loves. I am pleased for her and not at all surprised she found a bit of employment bliss.

Some of us, not so lucky. But still very much plugging away.

Really, I don’t want to come across as whiny. At least, not too much.

I have written that I knew a year ago that losing my job was not my fault, but instead the result of a convulsing economy and industry leaders who were blind to or simply ignored the emerging trends in the newspaper industry. Of course, those same industry leaders retained their jobs, while talented people such as my “canniversary” friend were sent packing.

The sting of unemployment is somewhat tempered by the fact that so many other people were out of work, too. Misery loves company, no matter the source of the misery. It was not so easy to say that there was work for anyone who wanted it bad enough, because there simply was not work for anyone who wanted it.

Like so very many others in the same situation, things have not been great for me in the past year. OK, but not great. Despite the financial, emotional and psychological stress being laid off has caused me, I think overall I’m OK.

Sure, there have been ebbs and flows, ups and downs, ins and outs, people who say “yes” and people who say “no.” But I’d like to think that I’ve gained experience and knowledge that I will be able to use into the future.

The holidays were the roughest days, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect – too many three-day weekends. That makes for a very poor job-searching environment. Joblessness is demoralizing and it is made even more debilitating when there simply is nothing a person can do, not even search job websites because there are no new postings over the long weekend.

But you learn to move on. You learn to always take a step forward. And another. Always forward. Never give up the high ground and never give up ground gained. And you do it because there is no other option.

I don’t often quote stogie-chomping fat guys, but they say Winston Churchill told a nation once, “Never, never, never give up.” I’m rather too stubborn to give up, either.

Of course, forward movement doesn’t always work out the way you plan. And I’ve done my share of back-stepping the past couple of months. I’ve stumbled over stones and boulders and mountains, some of them of my own making, and some the making of malicious characters seen and unseen. (That’s not too whiny, is it?)

No matter, forward continues to be the only direction.

By the way, the past couple of days have been OK. I have been dreading for months this “canniversary.” I never expected that I would be out of work for three months, let alone a year, but I have been.

I remain optimistic that things will get better. I am optimistic and certain that I will find employment, either in the news industry or in a field less abusive to those people working in it.

And I am true to the idea that this will not define me, but ultimately make me stronger.

Learning a few things about being unemployed

First – and probably always – do as I say, not as I do.

My parents used that – “do as I say, not as I do” – on my sister and me while we were growing up in Maine. We didn’t always get the context, but we got the idea.

And I use it now because I’ve learned a few things in the past nearly year that I’ve been unemployed, some of the lessons have come from failures rather than successes.

I was laid off on March 5, 2009, from a job in the newspaper industry. I had been in the industry working as a staff writer, copyeditor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant metro editor, and as a staff writer for a newspaper website. I have some pretty varied skills and broad experiences.

Unfortunately, while I was working and achieving results for various small- to medium-sized newspapers in Northern California, I was centered on those tasks and results and not looking far enough ahead in updating skills for the future. I’m paying for that now, but I accept (nearly) full responsibility for that. The rest of the responsibility – and full and complete responsibility for the current crisis in the newspaper industry – falls squarely on the shoulders of publishers, media industry officials, and media stockholders.

I started off with the old “do as I say, not as I do,” simply because I’ve learned what I’ve learned more out of trial and error rather than trial and success. At least, not yet.

Here are a few of those things that I have learned after having been laid off:

1) Do not act rashly. It is demoralizing to be laid off, to be told that your services no longer will be required. There is a practice in human resources that says a firm should carry out firings and lay-off notices on Friday. That gives the person fired or laid off the weekend to cool off and it is supposed to cut the chances of violent retaliation. I think it may be more important for the person fired or laid off to consciously take advantage of that sort of cooling off period to consider what you want to do and what you can do. Take a couple of days to consider your options before moving toward finding a new job, shifting to a new career, or moving to gain the training and skills needed for that new career. But for goodness sake, don’t retaliate; layoffs are, unfortunately, a part of business.

2) Cut spending immediately, as in NOW, and assess your personal financial situation. Know what resources you have in savings. Know what severance you have. Know what other accounts you can access in a real pinch. That said, stay away from dipping into the 401(k) and other retirement accounts for as long as possible. Such withdrawals typically are subject to steep penalty and may not worth the short-term gain and long-term detriment.

3) Apply for unemployment insurance as soon as you are eligible. The eligibility differs slightly from state to state, but typically it is a week or two after being laid off. The application can be done online. It takes some time to fill out the application and you will need financial information, such as salary, severance, and other asset information.

4) Exercise the body. Being laid off is demoralizing. It is depressing. Physical exercise does several beneficial things, including fending off depression. It reduces stress. It makes you feel better because you are healthier. Unless you have health issues that prevent you from physical exercise, get out and walk, hike, ride a bike, take the stairs instead of an elevator. Do something.

5) Exercise the mind. Trust me, the mental stimulation resulting from working everyday and interacting with co-workers and others does a world of good to keep the brain working the way it should. Read, take tutorials for things you think you might need for the future, do puzzles. Do something. I already know that despite doing what I can to stimulate my mind every waking hour, I do not feel as sharp as I did when I was working and regularly interacting with co-workers and others. The situation would be much worse if I did not read and write everyday.

6) Eat right. This is vital to keeping your energy level high enough to do the things you need to do to get your life back on track. Empty calories should be avoided. Eat fruit and veggies. Whole grains. Take the time immediately after being laid off to get your eating habits back in line to help jumpstart your career.

7) Cut the booze. Do not crawl into a bottle. It will reduce quality sleep. It will jeopardize physical and mental wellbeing. It will make you mentally sluggish.

8 ) Remain as positive and optimistic as possible when possible. This is difficult. Hope always should be at a person’s core, but being laid off can be extremely demoralizing and stressful. And the feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming. But remembering a mantra such as “everyday a step forward” or “something good will happen soon” can help keep you moving toward recovery after being laid off.

9) Be grateful and thankful. Be gracious and supportive. What do you have to be grateful for? Thankful? Gracious, why? And supportive? You may think that there is nothing for which to be grateful, thankful, gracious? And support, you probably feel you are the one who needs the support. But there is plenty for which to be grateful, thankful and gracious. You are alive and living in a great – albeit flawed – nation with a system in place to help people like you and the others among the 15.3 million unemployed in this nation. People understand that times are tough and there seems to be less “well, he’d have a job if he tried hard enough” or “she’d be back at work if she wasn’t sucking up the unemployment insurance.” Very few people want to be unemployed. It just doesn’t make sense to willingly be unemployed. So be grateful and thankful for that system and the support system you have in place, family and friends. Be gracious to those who were laid off at the same time as you, but who are back to work before you. They deserve to be back at work. Not more than you deserve it, but sometimes that is just the luck of the draw. Understand that. Be supportive of those who have been laid off and supportive of those who are in more dire situations than you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or kitchen. Volunteer to help disabled veterans or the elderly. Do something with the skills you have to better someone else’s life while you have a little more free time. Do something.

10) Negative feelings are not always completely negative. There will be times when you will not be able to bring yourself to be positive or optimistic. That is OK. No one has the strength to be positive and optimistic 100 percent of the time. It is OK to take a break from being positive and optimistic. As long as you learn from the down time and the down time does not last too long. You can use what you’ve learned from the negative feelings to make the positive and optimistic times last longer. While it can be healthy to vent from time to time about your own situation, remember that there is a limit to how much your family and friends should be subjected to negative statements. Sometimes you are going to have to live with your own negative feelings and ride them out until you can feel more positive and optimistic. The negative feelings will pass. And then use them to motivate you for positive action.

11) Reconnect and stay connected. You are not alone. There are 15.3 million Americans out of work. That is a lot. And most people who are laid off are not at fault. It was not my fault I was laid off from my job. It was the result of an industry in convulsions. So it is important that people who are laid off to remember that they are not alone and that it is not our fault. It is very important that a laid off person does not cut themselves off from family and friends. Stay connected. I joined the social networks Facebook and LinkedIn and started blogging, all to reconnect and stay connected with family, friends and former co-workers. I have even reconnected with high school and college classmates. Staying connected does wonders for maintaining mental wellbeing.

OK, those are 11 things that I have learned in the past year or so. I started off saying “do what I say, not what I do.” I won’t reveal exactly which of these I learned through my own personal failure, just accept that some of these were learned through painful experience rather than painless epiphany.

Cannery closure end of the line for a way of life | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Cannery closure end of the line for a way of life | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Letters From Away moves to a new home, while keeping the old

Letters From Away, my blog about what happens in Maine and to Mainers, has a new home. But I’m not nearly ready to get rid of the old home. I like it too much.

I plan to keep Letters From Away on WordPress.com, but now I’m going to have a (nearly) identical version on Blogger, too. It’s called the same thing – Letters From Away – but has a slightly different URL. It is http://lettersfromaway.blogspot.com/. There is a link on the WordPress.com version to the Blogger version and a link from the Blogger version to the WordPress.com version.

Why?

Well, I started the original version – the WordPress.com version – because I wanted to keep writing during my unemployment, reach out with information about my (limited) online portfolio and my LinkedIn profile, and keep idle hands from being so idle.

Frankly, it has been a bit more time-consuming than I first expected and I’m not getting the number of visits I would like, but I do realize blogging is a bit new for me and that it takes time to generate a following. And I rarely have a chance to promote Letters From Away – or another blog I write, Coffeehouse Observer – and when I do promote it, it usually is to my Facebook friends. But I’m hoping things will pick up.

And I think this is something that I can keep up once I have a new job.

And it should be something I can do should I return to Maine. The “from away” part in the title of the blogs refers to a Mainer phrase to mean anything or any person that is from outside of Maine. It is a phrase usually spoken by a Mainer with a bit disgust. Well, quite a bit of disgust.

So, if I do return to Maine, I can simply change the name of the blogs to Back From Away and just keep on going. Or I can create new blogs and link back to the older blogs to give readers context.

To make a short answer longer, the “why” in adding the Blogger version is to spread out a bit more, to give my writing, portfolio and hunger to get back to work a wider audience.

I hope you visit either version of Letters From Away. They are on slightly different templates and the Blogger version has a news feed feature for news from Maine and the rest of New England. For that reason, I may limit the links to news stories from Maine newspapers on the Blogger version. I’ll figure out all that later.

Well, enjoy! Or not. It’s your choice.

And as always, please feel free to contact me via the blogs or email me at keith.l.michaud@gmail.com to report bad links, copyediting errors or whatever. Thanks!

Maine governor sees improving economy

Maine governor sees improving economy

The MP3 and text versions of the address are not on the Maine.gov website, but here’s a link to that landing page. Give it a try later if you want to listen to the address or read the text.

40 employees laid off at Central Maine Power – Portland News Story – WMTW Portland

 40 Employees Laid Off At Central Maine Power – Portland News Story – WMTW Portland.

Maine jobless rate rises to 8.3% in December

Maine jobless rate rises to 8.3% in December