Job hunting gets harderby Michael Caputo, Minnesota Public Radio
The economic downturn has forced many more Minnesotans to look for a new job -- either because of layoffs or a cutback in hours or to supplement retirement. Compared to a year ago, about 40,000 more Minnesotans are unemployed. But over the same period there are 16,000 fewer jobs in the state.
St. Paul, Minn. — On November 3rd, Rachel Haas worked her last day as a financial analyst in the mortgage industry. In her neat Apple Valley home in a new development, Haas sees a rough road ahead as she checks a Web site -- a job line for financial analysts. As little as a year ago, the Minnesota section of this Web site listed 10 to 14 open positions.
"And we're at three jobs [now]," she says.
Haas comes face to face with the law of job market supply and demand. Nationally 75,000 jobs have disappeared from the finance and insurance sector.
"And as banks lay off more people, investment banks, former investment banks," she says, "there's just a huge pool of talent out there."
Haas says that for someone like her, she's in her early 50s, the competition can be especially difficult.
Oddly enough, the financial meltdown provided her with a possibility. The federal government had aimed much of the $700 billion bailout money to buy up bad -- or toxic -- mortgage-related securities. Haas said the Treasury Department was planning to subcontract some of that work. And since she's qualified , Haas viewed that as an opportunity to start her own business.
"That changed," she laughs. "Treasury, at least at this point, has decide that was no longer the direction they wanted to go."
So Haas looks again at joining the glut of job seekers reentering the workforce. Minnesota Public Radio has devised a measure of the difficulty of finding work: the job pain index. The measure is based on a number of factors that reflect the supply and demand for labor. And the index is at its lowest point since last April, when the state lost a whopping 11,900 jobs.
The weak labor market is forcing some job-seekers to actually hide their qualifications. Lisa Nordeen of Minneapolis saw her full-time position as an academic advisor at the University of Minnesota eliminated. While there she got her Ph.D.. Since the layoff, she's worked part-time to make ends meet and hasn't been able to land full-time work. She says employers are looking away because she's over qualified.
"I'm just hoping to be able to put myself in a position where I'm an attractive candidate. And for some of the positions that I'm applying for, in my mind that means leaving the Ph.D. off of the resume," she says.
While Nordeen is trying to manage employers' lower expectations, Patrick Burns of La Crescent looks to lower his own. Burns retired a year ago after more than 40 years doing computer technology work. But he didn't figure on his costs rising so steeply, chief among them health care.
"I never expected to be such a recipient of health care, let me put it that way," he says.
So Burns needs a job. He's applied for about 75 jobs that range from information technology to plowing snow. It's the latter job he figures to get.
"I kind of feel that's the strata I'm going to be in. I'm going to pick up a job," Burns said, "it'll be a seasonal job with no benefits and it'll be at the minimum wage."
Burns says he will soldier on. So will financial analyst Rachel Haas. She's not giving up on pursuing her own consulting business. But she needs a job. So she's considering a new line of work -- becoming a paralegal -- as a way to put herself more in demand as the supply of job applicants keeps growing.
- Morning Edition, 11/21/2008, 6:20 a.m.