Unemployment Part 2: Comments and Responses

Posted on November 15, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

OK. Since I posted this blog last week, I have had a few comments. I have provided a few samples below:

-“Uh, yeah. Like unemployment is ‘such’ a gravy train. Wow, you can really live large on $500 a month.”

-“It’s easy to tell me I should just get off unemployment when you’ve got a job!”

-“Times are really tough. If Congress extends unemployment, that will be a good thing for all the people out of a job right now.”

I like the first comment, as it touches on a slew of topics in a few succinct statements. Let’s start with the payout. Unemployment benefits pay can vary widely by state, because unemployment benefit laws are made at the state level, as well as by the amount earned, the number of hours worked, and the amount of time of ongoing employment. The emergency unemployment acts that have passed through Congress only mandate the extension and federal funding of those benefits.

If we take someone in Boston who earned $150K and was laid off after more than 10 consecutive years on the job, they would be eligible for $600 per week in unemployment pay. While an annualized pay of $31,200 doesn’t compare with $150K, most would agree that it would help to pay for a car loan and reasonable mortgage. However, the comment is accurate in the sense that no one will be “living large” off this type of pay.

The Intention of Unemployment
This brings us to the next topic, which is the purpose for having unemployment benefits. The intention was to provide a safety net for employees who lost a job through “no fault of their own,” meaning they weren’t fired for theft or things like that. So anyone that was laid off, downsized, rightsized, outsourced, or a dozen other euphemisms could get a portion of their pay for up to 26 weeks while they looked for a new job. However, certain requirements had to be met. In most cases, those collecting unemployment were required to report to the unemployment office and prove that they were, indeed, actually conducting a job search. They needed to show how many resumes they sent out, to whom, and which companies they interviewed with.

Some readers may recall, way back when, if someone lost their job and couldn’t quickly find a new one, they would take a job or jobs in retail, doing “menial” work, or a position involving physical labor. Basically, they would do whatever was necessary to pay the bills and put food on the table. Those jobs are still out there. I see companies all over advertising for them every day.

Actions Versus Intentions
So, I would like to respond to the individual that wrote the first comment. Before I do, I am going to assume that he or she is currently not employed and is accepting unemployment benefits that pay in the vicinity of $500 per month. Without knowing anything else about your situation, I would ask you to consider your actions. Your intentions may be very good. For example, you intend to get a job and contribute productively. However, your actions may belie that intention.

I say that by simple observation. Consider that $500 per month breaks down to about $115 per week (each month has 4.333 weeks on average). That’s just $2.88 per hour based on a 40-hour “work” week. If it is so awful to have no, or very limited, requirements to receiving the $2.88 per hour, why not take a position at Wal-Mart, working in a warehouse, or in customer service. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, with some states mandating as high as $8.55 per hour as the minimum. That’s nearly 3 times more than what unemployment benefits will pay you! Am I missing something here?

So your intentions may be good, but the reality is that you are earning less than you could be and costing us both more. In addition, you are not expanding your skill set and you are creating an employment gap on your resume that becomes more difficult to remedy each day that passes.

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