Sunday, May 3, 2009

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

A place with more jobs than people!

This morning, I discovered a magical place where they say there are more jobs than people to fill them.

It's a little town called Pinedale, Wyoming, where the county unemployment rate is a mere 2.1 percent. Let me say that again: 2.1 percent. That's almost the opposite of Michigan's 12 percent!

This mountain town of 1,412 has more jobs than people, according to ABC News, thanks to a natural gas field just south of town.

But I'm not packing up and moving from my present town of Ferndale to Pinedale just yet.

For one thing, Pinedale sounds very outdoorsy. The county Chamber of Commerce says the area's recreational opportunities are hiking, hunting, horseback riding, and other "adventure opportunities." I like hiking and horses all right (even though I rarely ride horses). But I've never hunted (for anything much except bargains at Target), and I haven't been fishing in about 20 years. My last "adventure opportunity" was driving on I-696 at night.

For another, the local paper's web sites warn potential newcomers right off that apartment and house rentals are 1. expensive and 2. hard to come by.

Lastly, my experience with natural gas is limited to paying my utility bill each month.

However, if you're an outdoorsy type who needs a job and who's always dreamed of living out west -- and who wouldn't mind working on a ranch or on the gas fields -- go for it!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Quote of the Day

May Day! May Day! No, no need to take cover: It's Friday, the first of May and time once again for our weekly Quote of the Day.

Today's quote is from Orson Scott Card:

"Unemployment is capitalism's way of getting you to plant a garden."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

That didn't take long

According to WDIV-TV and WXYZ-TV's newscasts here in Detroit, the now-bankrupt Chrysler L.L.C. has already shut down three to four assembly plants in Warren and Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Supposedly, Chrysler was going to shut its plants on Monday. But suppliers already won't ship parts to the company.

To quote one worker walking out of one of the plants, "Where's Lee Iacocca when you need him?"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An anniversary

I realized I celebrated a major anniversary yesterday: My college graduation.

I won't say how long it was since I graduated from college, but I listened to this album that summer. You can do the math. (Gosh, I'm old.)

I graduated with no job into the midst of a recession. If you asked me that day what I'd be doing now, I would not have said I'd be unemployed in the midst of another, even worse, recession.

Or "blogging" about it all on something called "the Internet."

Monday, April 27, 2009

I read the news today, oh boy

General Motors announced this morning it is slashing 23,000 jobs, closing 40 percent of its dealerships, and dropping its Pontiac brand, all by next year. Which is only going to add to unemployment.

In unrelated news, the dreaded swine flu may have moved into Michigan.

I think I'm going to quit watching the news.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

TGIF, WSFAU readers! Time once again for our Quote of the Day.

This week's quote comes to us from Edward Heath:

"Unemployment is of vital importance, particularly to the unemployed."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Maybe I should apply for this.

This doesn't have much to do with unemployment, except that I heard about this on the radio this morning while driving to my latest job interview:

A tall and wealthy man in Birmingham, one of Detroit's wealthiest suburbs, is advertising for a wife. Actually, according to the Detroit Free Press, after about a billion bad blind dates, he's paying a New York matchmaker to search for a wife for him.

Candidates must be beautiful, brainy, have a good body, a balanced life, and be at least 5'6" tall. And they have to pay $50 in fees to and interview with the matchmaker.

Well, I am tall, smart (two college degrees), and single. And I need a job ....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good news, bad news

Bad news: I didn't get the job I wanted to get.

Good news: I have an interview tomorrow morning for another job.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

Happy Friday, everyone! Time once again for the WSFAU Quote of the Day.

Today's quote is from President Harry S. Truman:

"It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We're still number one! Dammit.

Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth reported our state's unemployment rate had reached 12.6 percent in March.

According to Crain's Detroit Business: "The new 12.6 percent level was a full 5 percentage points higher than a year ago, when the Michigan rate was 7.6 percent. During the same period, the national jobless rate rose by 3.4 percentage points."

I don't know how to make this funny. I only wish I did.

Local Unemployed Olympics

Today, the WSFAU staff and I tip our hats to "The Chad Show" at 106.7 The Fox FM here in Detroit. This morning, they're having an Unemployed Olympics for their unemployed listeners to blow off steam (and win concert tickets). Have fun smashing those computers and printers, guys!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day! Or not.

Once again, it's April 15. I've already seen the yearly news coverage of drivers crawling up to the massive Royal Oak, Michigan post office, last-minute returns in hand. I have to go to downtown Royal Oak in a few hours; I may just go down to the post office and watch the fun in person.

Unlike some unemployed people, I TurboTaxed and e-filed my returns the moment I took my former employer's W2 form out of my mailbox. Why? Well, the last several years, I've received a decent refund from the federal government. This year was no different. I even received a modest refund from the state. And of course, being unemployed, I needed the money.

Since I used to work in the city of Detroit, I also had to file nonresident city income tax returns. I owed Detroit the grand total of $2. Which probably paid for a few of the ex-mayor's infamous text messages.

But here's another reason why I'm thinking about taxes today: Unfortunately, unemployment benefits are taxable income (after a certain amount; consult your tax advisor). Here in Michigan, they do give you the choice of having taxes withheld from your biweekly unemployment payments. I am having taxes withheld from mine so I won't be spending April 15, 2010, wondering how I'm going to pay back taxes to the IRS.

Gotta love The Onion

One of my old college friends posted a 2007 The Onion story to my Facebook news feed tonight. I thought I'd share it here: Thousands Lose Jobs as Michigan Unemployment Offices Close.

As I've said here before, Michigan's unemployed don't report to unemployment offices. We file our initial claims over the Internet. Then we call into the unemployment agency's telephone system -- the dreaded MARVIN -- every two weeks.

When I first found this out, it did make me wonder: Whatever happened to all of those unemployment agency counselors and clerks who waited on me the last time I filed for unemployment years ago in the pre-MARVIN era? Did they have to hit the unemployment line? Were they retrained for other jobs? Did they retire? Or do they hand out license plates, drivers licenses, and car titles in the one state department most Michiganders still regularly visit in person: the Secretary of State's Office?

Monday, April 13, 2009

The interview

Now that Easter's over, I'm back home from spending the holiday with family and friends. I'm back to work on the unemployment front. So to speak.

My job interview today went well. I met with my potential supervisor and the person who now has the job to hear about the job. It's something which is well-suited to my background and experience, and I hope they were able to see that in between my resume and the interview. They didn't ask me a lot of questions, but I believe I answered what they did ask fairly well.

After the interview, I had to go to the agency which sent me on the interview -- yes, it's a long-term temporary position -- and fill out all sorts of forms. I9 forms, tax forms, reference check forms, non-disclosure forms, and something else which may have more or less signed my life away.

I should know by Wednesday whether or not I got the job.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

It's Friday. Time once again for the WSFAU Quote of the Day:

"The nearest to perfection that most people come is when filling out an employment application."

Source: Unknown.

Happy Easter, everyone! I'll be away from the blog (and the Internet) for the next few days. Enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I have a job interview on Monday.

I'm both happy and nervous about this.

Happy because it's an interview for a job I want at a place I've wanted to work. I have a good chance of getting this job, and I want and need to go back to work.

Nervous because it's a job interview. Job interviews make me uncomfortable, and I haven't been on an interview in a little while.

When I was in outplacement counseling, they asked us to think of brief stories of accomplishments at our former jobs so we could later use these stories during job interviews. Stories about how we increased sales, or lead a team, or increased productivity, or achieved something. I had a difficult time with this; I was more the supportive type who just showed up for work each day and worked her behind off. So during job interviews when they ask about my accomplishments or how I worked with a team, I tend to be at a loss for words. Not quite what interviewers want to hear.

However, they need to hear something from me. It is my first and only chance to make a good impression, and I'll work on it over the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Jay Leno Comedy Stimulus Plan Show

I just took the WSFAU staff out to the Jay Leno Comedy Stimulus Plan Show for metro Detroit's unemployed. We spared every expense: The show was free. Even the parking, the Coke and a bag of Doritos were free, thanks to the sponsors.

After the crowd was warmed up by a local jazz-funk band, the show began with a surprise introduction of Leno by Kid Rock, ovations for Rock and Leno, and Leno's little dig at the Detroit City Council's controversy over his performance taking place in the 'burbs. ("Thank you, Detroit! Oh, I mean Auburn Hills!")

Leno performed about an hour and a half worth of stand-up comedy on a wide range of subjects, including politics and presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, airlines, cats and dogs, family, aging, and food and obesity. The jokes were more adult at times than what you'd hear on his Tonight Show monologue, but nothing was too offensive. Surprisingly, there were few jokes about the economy, even though the appreciative near-capacity audience was mostly made up of unemployed or underemployed persons.

He ended the show by thanking local union members "for creating the middle class" and telling the audience about his admiration for Detroit and its automotive and manufacturing history.

The show did what it was meant to do: Take Detroiters' minds off their troubles for an evening (or two; he's in town again Wednesday night).

Her husband needs a job ....

A Yahoo News story today described a San Francisco woman who created to find work for her unemployed, newly-MBA-degreed spouse. It's the 21st century equivalent of standing on a street corner with a "I need a job" sign around your neck, only the Internet is the street corner.

I have mixed feelings about this.

First, she put together a good site. It's a serious effort, and it describes his qualifications very well.

Second, I have no doubt Mr. and Mrs. Husband are both looking for a job for him. Instead of the URL "myhusband," it should really be "his name" so that it looks more like he's in charge of his own job search. However, she probably thought "myhusbandneedsajob" would get them more attention, and she's right. Their blog says Oprah has called them.

And finally, as a single person, I have to admit I'm a little jealous that I don't have a supportive spouse or significant other who would be willing to run a web site like this for me. Not that I couldn't do it myself.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I too could become a medical assistant! Or not.

I've been spending the day watching too much daytime television while looking for jobs online and waiting for people to return my telephone calls about jobs. It's that kind of a Monday. And I don't want to go outside; it snowed here last night. As Prince sang and my father used to say, sometimes it snows in April.

While writing and editing this post, I have seen three commercials about training to be a medical assistant or medical office assistant. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site says this is one of the country's fastest-growing occupations, and it may be just the job for others, I have decided it is not the job for me.

Even though half of these trade school commercials assure me that medical assistants are an important part of the health care team, I don't think I want to spend my work days around sick people. I wince at the sight of blood and other medical-related sights.

So I'm not going to medical assisting/office assisting trade school.

But I'm still going to see those commercials until I get another job.

And don't get me started on lawyer commercials.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Comedy Stimulus preview

As I mentioned in this blog's very first post, Jay Leno is coming to the Detroit area (don't say he's coming to Detroit, or the Detroit City Council will beg to differ with you) Tuesday and Wednesday to give a pair of Comedy Stimulus concerts especially for the unemployed.

I'm going to Tuesday's show. I'll review it for WSFAU.

Until then, here's a Detroit Free Press interview of Leno, his working class ethics, his love of cars, and his reasons for coming here. The link is here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"A band built for hard times"

This morning I read a Sunday Los Angeles Times interview of my favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen. (Yes, it's only Saturday, but the interview's already on the LA Times web site and posted to Springsteen fan sites.) At the beginning of the interview, he calls the E Street Band "a band built for hard times."

As I, a longtime fan who would be the first to tell you that they have just started a new world tour, would tell you, Bruce and the E Street Band are an excellent act for anytime. Unfortunately, they're not coming to my hometown this leg of the tour. He did say during his Super Bowl press conference that they are coming to this part of the Midwest, so I remain hopeful.

In this interview, Springsteen makes the case that the E Street Band is an excellent band for these hard economic times. Yes, Springsteen may now be a rich rock star, and he knows he is.

However, Springsteen grew up in working class New Jersey. Many of his best songs were written during the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. His lyrics are full of people looking for work, people losing work, people coping with hard, terrible jobs.

Allow me to quote some:

Atlantic City: "Now I been lookin' for a job but it's hard to find. Down here it's just winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line."

Johnny 99: "Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late last month. Ralph went out lookin' for a job but he couldn't find none. He came home too drunk from mixin' Tanqueray and wine. He got a gun, shot a night clerk, now they call him Johnny 99."

Born in the U.S.A.: "Come back home to the refinery. Hiring man said 'Son if it were up to me.'"

The River: "I got a job working construction for the Johnston Company. But lately there ain't been much work. On account of the economy."

The Ghost of Tom Joad: "Familes sleepin' in their cars in the Southwest. No home, no job, no peace, no rest." A nineties retelling of "The Grapes of Wrath," set to music.

Sherry Darling: "Your mama's yappin' in the backseat. Tell her to push over and move them big feet. Every Monday morning I gotta drive her down to the unemployment agency."

And finally, although I could go on, Factory: "Through the mansions of fear, through the mansions of pain, I see my daddy walking through the factory gates in the rain. Factory takes his hearing, factory gives him life. The working, the working, just the working life."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Quote of the Day

Today at WSFAU, we're introducing a new feature: the Friday Quote of the Day.

Our first quote is attributed to President Calvin Coolidge:

"When a great many people are unable to find work, unemployment results."

(To be fair to "Silent Cal," however, Yahoo Education does say this widely-quoted quote is possibly spurious.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Calling unemployment

The one thing every unemployed person has to do is the one thing every unemployed person hates doing: Calling their state unemployment department every week or two for their unemployment insurance benefits.

As Suze Ormond said on Oprah today, if you're unemployed, you're entitled to unemployment. You paid into the system (and so did your former employer) while you were working. But, as she warned, don't quit your day job just to get unemployment; the system only pays out if you've been laid off. Plus, it doesn't pay out that much.

We're also entitled to that money because we earn it by answering the most ridiculous questions whenever we call unemployment. Once we finally connect to unemployment, that is. Ask any unemployed person. Here in Michigan, we're all assigned a day and time to call the state unemployment system, officially known as MARVIN. Mine is Wednesday afternoon. Thursday and Friday are make-up days, in case you happen to miss your time for some reason (you had a job interview, you fell asleep, you got a life).

However, when we unemployed persons call MARVIN at our appointed times, we usually hear the phone company's "All circuits are busy now ..." recording. It helps to have: 1. A redial button on your phone so you can press it every few minutes while you wait and hope for the line to clear. 2. Experience calling either busy radio station phone lines or Ticketmaster phone lines, and 3. Patience.

When you finally hear the unemployment agency recording -- and it's guaranteed you won't hear it on the first try -- you have to punch the same old numbers into your touch-tone phone and wait for it to ask you the same old questions. The most ridiculous questions they ask are: "Are you working? Did you work during X week? Did you quit a job, retire, or refuse work?" Uh, no, no, no, no, and no. And did I say no?

If I were working, this little blog would be titled "What's so funny about employment?" And I would not need to live off money the government barely has.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good news?

Employers across the country are again hiring the jobless in a sudden reversal of hiring freezes, signaling an end to the recession.

"We decided it was about time to hire someone to do the unfinished work around here," said P. R. Person, spokesperson for Megacorp. The widget producer, which laid off 75 percent of its staff in cost-cutting moves in 2008 and earlier this year, was among the major employers announcing it was again hiring today. "Honestly, we could only cut back so far," Person said.

Joanne Blogger, a Michigan writer, noticed the hiring trend in early April. "This is wonderful news," Blogger said. "Too bad it's not true."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Errands and the Unemployed

Today I needed to do a few errands: Banking, bill paying, going to the post office, and grocery shopping.

As every unemployed person discovers sooner or later, one nice thing about unemployment is that we unemployed people don't have to do our errands only during weekends anymore. We can go out on weekdays and conduct our personal business when the stores, banks, and post offices are much less crowded than on Saturday or Sunday.

However, there are some funny things about this:
  • As you cruise the nearly-empty aisles finding bargains at the cheap grocery store, you may wonder, "Shouldn't I be home looking for a job to pay for groceries?"
  • At the bank, you find out about your dwindling balance that much quicker.
  • At the post office mailing your bills, you wonder why there's always a line at the counter no matter when you go there.
  • At home writing your blog post, you remember you needed to go to the dry cleaner and shoe repair shop, too.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Two out of the Big Three Could Be Bad

Today's big news (well, last night's too) here in Detroit is that the CEO of General Motors has joined the ranks of Michigan's unemployed. He was apparently given his walking papers by the government.

Meanwhile, the president spent his morning assuring us all that GM and Chrysler need to be saved (gee, you think?), giving them a month or two to get their act together (yeah, that'll do it) and that it'll be OK to buy a car from a bankrupt company because the government will back car warranties (insert laughter here).

Saturday, March 28, 2009


During that awkward time when I was first telling people about my job loss, someone misspoke the word "unemployment" as "unenjoyment" to me. I don't remember exactly who it was. I do believe it happened at the bar, so alcohol was no doubt involved.

Since then, it's stuck with me: Unemployment, unenjoyment.

No, unemployment is not meant to be an enjoyable time in anyone's life. You're broke, and you have to go out and look for a job.

The funny thing is -- and we here at WSFAU always look for the funny thing -- unemployment can be enjoyable.

Enjoyable? Are you nuts, you say? I'm broke and I have to look for a job!

Ah, but here's the thing: You still need to find ways to enjoy life. You've got time on your hands now, and you can only job hunt for so much time during the week.

Here's some ways you can enjoy your unemployment:

  • Spend a little time on your hobbies. Not too much, though: You still need to find that job.
  • Don't forget your friends and family. Spend your free time with them.
  • Volunteer. WSFAU does. Find a worthy nonprofit which needs you .
  • Join Toastmasters and improve your public speaking skills. Again, WSFAU recommends this.
  • Start your own blog.

Friday, March 27, 2009


So I checked my Facebook page this morning to see what my 74 most-wired friends are up to.

Two of them -- employed ones -- made obligatory "Thank God It's Friday/I'm ready for the weekend!"-type status updates.

Another one of them had made a "Thank God it's Fri-oh, wait, it's only Thursday ..." update yesterday.

We here at WSFAU do sympathize with the plight of the employed. Heck, we were employed as of, oh, late last year.

Yet we find ourselves having to rely on such devices as calendars and the primetime television schedule in order to distinguish one weekday from another. When you're unemployed, the days do tend to blur into each other.

I do admit to wanting to know it's Friday for two reasons: 1. Lenten observance (Remember not to eat meat I really can't afford anyway!) and 2. My employed friends can come out to play for the next few days.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming to my Census

While I was writing my last post, the U.S. Census Bureau called me.

No, they weren't asking how many people live in my apartment. Or in my head. The census itself isn't being taken until 2010.

They were calling to offer me a temporary job as a enumerator to help them prepare for the upcoming census.

Shortly after I was laid off this winter, I applied for and took a short test for census bureau jobs. People told me they were looking for temps in my area, and the pay was good -- better than Michigan's unemployment pay rate.

I train for a week in mid-April -- oddly enough, my interviewer didn't yet know where I'm supposed to report to training -- and then work for eight weeks. The job itself is likely to include nights and weekends, so I can still job hunt while I earn some extra cash.

And I can tell Michigan's MARVIN system goodbye for awhile. :)

Playing the game at the job fairgrounds

I am now resting and blogging (and watching daytime TV judge shows) after attending two job fairs in as many days.

The thought came to me: If they're called "job fairs," then where are the rides and games? You know, like at the county fair?

On second thought, job fairs are a game. Especially here in Michigan, the Unofficial Unemployment Capital of the Nation.

Hundreds, thousands of us, dress up in our best suits and line up to get inside a suburban hotel ballroom to make a good impression on a few dozen of our potential employers du jour. All with the same goal in mind: Get a Job.

Step One: Survive the Line to Get in the Door. Big job fair lines these days can make you think of old black and white pictures of Great Depression lines. Except no one in those 1930s bread and soup lines used his iPhone to Google a list of job fair exhibitors while he collected his strength to go pound the pavement. (Which I saw yesterday, and which gets my envious vote for Smartest Use of a Smartphone Ever.) Most wait in line quietly, hopefully, probably even prayerfully. Some, usually women, strike up conversations with their fellow job seekers.

After what seems like forever, and you finally make it to the front of the line, it's time for Step Two: The Ballroom Doors Swing Open. An HR-type woman comes to tell you you may now enter the ballroom (in an orderly fashion). You and several dozen of your new colleagues enter.

Step Three: Figure Out Your Next Move. Every job seeker/unemployed person knows (or should know) what's inside a job fair: Tables full of brochures, cards, maybe a little swag, and smiling recruiters. And lines of your fellow job seekers behind each of the smiling recruiters. It's up to you to figure out just how many of these tables/recruiters/lines to hit up, and how.

Step Four: Wait in More Lines in Front of the Recruiter(s) of Your Choice.

Step Five: Meet Recruiter of Your Choice. Smile. Introduce yourself. Give your little sales pitch for yourself. Listen to her or him and find out if they have something for you (that something being a job). Hand over your resume. (you did bring plenty of resumes, didn't you?) Get his or her business card, company brochures, and/or little pieces of swag. Thank recruiter, even if they're not hiring anyone with your mad skills.

Repeat Steps Four and Five as necessary. Or until: A. You have talked to the prospect(s) you wanted to see and they liked you, you lucky person! B. You run of potential employers, or C. You slink back out to the parking lot, convinced you're totally unemployable because no one there had a need for the likes of you.

Allow me to introduce myself.

I'm an unemployed person in southeastern Michigan who stayed up way, way too late the other night reading humorous (and a few serious) blogs about unemployment.

After laughing a little too loudly at posts about such things as wearing pajamas during the day, not making it out of your apartment some days, the futility of calling your state unemployment agency's telephone line, how much time we "formerly employed professionals" (ahem) spend on the Internet, (ahem) and what lengths to go to to get free restaurant meals, I checked to see where my fellow unemployed blogging Americans were blogging from.

First, I wanted to know if they were spying on me.

No. They were writing from California. Heh. Lightweights.

Not to belittle their -- or anyone's -- job losses.

Not that The Golden State is without its economic troubles. I understand its unemployment rate is now over 10 percent. That's not good.

However. We here in Michigan are #1 in the country when it comes to unemployment: 12 percent. Try jobhunting in our economy, my fellow unemployed Americans! I dare you!

It's so bad here in Michigan, Jay Leno decided to come here from California to take our minds off things for a few nights.

It's so bad, I decided the Internet needed a blogger from here in The Great Lakes State to make light of it all.

Here, I hope to examine what's so funny (and not-so-funny) about unemployment here in my home state.

After I go to a job fair later on today, though.