Unemployed Economy

Unemployed Because Of The Economy, Why Don’t People Get It?


Dear J.T. & Dale: With the exception of eight months, I have been unemployed for the past six years due to the economy. How can I try to fill in that gap? Some employers ask me about it, and they don’t seem satisfied with my answer that it is due to the economy, which I have no control over. Is there something else I can tell them? – Charles

DALE: I’m not satisfied either, Charles. Yes, unemployment is too high, but here’s the reality: When the economy is running along nicely, the unemployment rate is still about five percent, as employees come and go. Compare that with the recent rate, about eight percent, and you find just a three percent gap. That three percent is millions of people, and it’s a human and financial waste, but it’s still three percent.

Even with multi-year unemployment, hiring managers wonder why you haven’t found a way into the 90-plus percent. They ask themselves: “Why has everyone passed on this guy? What’s wrong?” You can blame the economy for a few months or a year, but after that you either need retraining or to relocate, or maybe just a new search strategy.

J.T.: Let’s start with a new strategy. Try to give hiring managers a more quantified sense of what you’ve been doing to look for work. Tell them how many hours each week you spend looking, the networking events you attend and what skills you’ve been working on to stay current and marketable. Let them know you’re working hard at finding work.

DALE: That, I fear, will just reinforce the impression that a zillion other hiring managers have passed on you. Instead, I’d urge you to find a way to make a new start. Get holiday or part-time work, or help out in a friend’s business in order to get something recent on your resume. Then, in interviews, tell hiring managers that you took time off to … well, to work on family issues or whatever it is you actually were doing.

Come up with something credible that allows you to say that you’ve just come back into the job market. Meanwhile, make the new start real: Don’t look just for a job, but for new contacts and new skills. Use the time to get better at what you do, and you’ll soon find yourself on the 90-plus percent side of the employment statistics.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.


  1. I must disagree with this entire article. Allow me to explain. I was released from my last employer in 2007. I spent 12 months looking for another job as a quality technician and found none. Then in summer of 2008 I decided to look at education to improve my marketability. I got hooked up with a community college and enrolled in their Computer Aided Drafting and Design program. Since I was already unemployed I was going full time. Near the end of the first semester in 2009 my wife had a stroke. This made me realize, more than ever, I needed finish college in a way that would put on par or ahead of the 20-somethings. I finished college with an AAS in CAD, Certified in Solidworks 3D CAD software, graduated with HONORS, a member of PHI-THETA-KAPPA and a GPA of 3.62. I was 49 when I graduated in 2010! The economy was already in a steep decline, Obama care had just been passed and the unemployment rate was between 9% and 10% according to the DOL. The actual unemployment rate was and remains closer to the mid teens.

    With all this in mind I find Dales comment: “You can blame the economy for a few months or a year, but after that you either need retraining or to relocate, or maybe just a new search strategy” and his validation of the misleading 8% unemployment rate, not only is it not grounded in reality but to someone like myself it’s down right offensive!

    I DID get some retaining. Because of the situation with my wife and her stroke, she needs in-home care, but it’s only for five hours a day. Relocation simply isn’t an option.

    J.T.’s suggestion of telling an employer, during an interview how many hours I have spent looking for work or about networking events isn’t much more realistic. Because to be honest, if I were looking to hire someone, the amount of time they spend on the job search isn’t going to be my primary concern, what they can do for me is.

    Imho, bottom line here is that the economy, the current administration and ACA are having a profound effect on the decisions businesses, both large and small, are making regarding hiring and what will they need to do with current employees to remain profitable. Whether we like it or not and whether we want to admit it or not, these things are effecting the job market. Again, imo, the advice in this article is of little value in the current job market.

  2. Did anyone see “60 Minutes” last night? Thousands of jobs out there in manufacturing, but not enough skilled workers to fill them. Enrique is taking courses to improve his skills. Smart thinking.

    How about volunteering? That’s something Charles could add to his resume to demonstrate some value. When you use volunteer work, explain your contributions and the results of your efforts. This can be used as an “experience” entry.

  3. Many of us say we are consultants. If you can talk the talk. this may be a great option. Also remember it is still rough out here. They had a job fair for 75 water department laborers in the City of Chicago. 400 people showed up wanting the chance to work. There are still not enough jobs for the people unemployed and willing to work. J.T. just doesn’t get it. Nice to just bloviate over the internet but spend some time in the trenches with real people and feel their real pain.

  4. Please stop validating the 8% percent number the DOL has been putting out the last few months. Tell your readers the real number and stop misleading them with the gap being only three percent.

  5. J.T., I’m going to side with Dale on this one; however I wholly agree that tracking your job search activity is important to help a person manage the emotional ups and downs of a long search. Having just come off a 18 month job search, I filled my time by doing part-time work with each of my 3 previous employers, obtaining an additional professional credential, volunteering, adjunct teaching and giving Plan B and C a go. These experiences created great dialogue during the interview and no one questioned me twice about what I was doing in between jobs. I also created a personal “bucket list” of things I wanted to do while in search. This list had activities from cleaning out closets, organizing my home office to books I wanted to read, exercising, etc. I did talk about setting up this bucket list in some interviews and it was well received. Hope this helps someone!

  6. I strongly disagree with Dale. First they say you’re unemployed, so therefore you’re below average. Then they say you’ve been unemployed for three months, so therefore you’re below average. Then six months, a year, etc.

    I have never seen or heard of a person hired, fired, or retained for any rational reason in any of the many job fields I’ve experienced or heard about.

  7. Hello from Spain.

    Is this advice equally worth in a country with 25% unemployment rate?

    In my case I’m taking some courses to improve skills and give me more chances to get hired. And, since 2010, I throw networking events (PinkSlipParty).

    When I talk about this events even with human resources people they look at me thinking I’m a freak. (I’m telecommunications engineer and I’ve never been related to human resources.)

    In Spain, when you get in contact with the person behind the job offer in a networking event, the chances are he/she feels you are disturbing their private zone.

    So, I try to keep calm and continue working in my job search examining every offer and trying to contact the right person behind.

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