Friday, October 21, 2011

Where the jobs are.......

The Huffington Post has an article discussing the impact of Alabama's immigration law on agriculture.

A friend sent it to me as an example of American indolence.  I think he overstates that case, although it's evident that contemporary Americans may not be up to the physical rigors of field work.

In this instance we are told several things -
  •  low pay
  •  physically demanding work
  •  most Americans lack the fitness level to perform it
  •  most Americans lack the skills of experienced farm workers (although we are not told what or how long it takes to acquire those skills)
  •  most of the unemployed are in cities not rural areas (which raises transportation issues)
  •  it is of course seasonal work although it can pay well enough if you are up to it
  •  a crew of Americans (apparently not up to the skills or capability of the immigrants) picked $24 worth of tomatoes per picker in one day (skilled workers can pick up to $300/worker/day)
  •  this is a sector that is not on most Americans' radar and it has been that way for decades.

It's one thing to say the agricultural sector is not attracting a lot of unemployed Americans, or keeping employed many of those that are now getting hired - especially given the myriad of reasons provided - it is entirely another to extrapolate from that a conclusion that people are unwilling to get off the dole and work.  If unemployment remains high enough long enough people will do the work, and it sounds like there are people willing to do the work according to the article, just not willing to talk about it.

However, the article also includes a comparison of the minimum wage to unemployment benefits.  It would appear on its face to make a case for sitting at home in Alabama, if only because the difference is $35, or ~$0.63/hour additional to actually work vs do nothing.  This nugget of information is one more example of American indolence in the view of my friend.  Well, maybe that is the case in Alabama.

In Illinois it is a completely different situation.

Illinois Unemployment Benefit calculator produces a very different result.

IL Hourly Minimum = 8.25  x 40hrs = 330/wk x13 wks in a quarter = 4290/qtr

Plugging into the calculator 4250 in each of the 4 quarters, which is the closest number on the table provided, yields a whopping $153/wk benefit for a single person, for a grand total of $3,978 maximum unemployment benefits.  Using $4500/qtr provides an additional $9 week, hardly enough to write home about.  The $153/wk is clearly less generous than Alabama, but I am not aware of any great migration to Alabama to qualify for unemployment.  On its face the benefit should be a sufficient motivator for people to accept minimum wage jobs when they are offered as it is clearly not advantageous to sit at home in IL.

The IL unemployment rate is averaging 9.8% in the last quarter and was at 10% in September.  In view of the low unemployment benefits one would be forgiven for expecting people to flock to job openings.  I contend that they are, but there are insufficient jobs to meet the demand.  Chicagoans, as a group, aren't necessarily going to migrate out to other locations.  Nearly half of my employees had no drivers licenses or had a license but no car.  If you have no car when you lose your job, you sure aren't going to run out to get one in order to go job hunting or pick tomatoes down state.

I know there are jobs going begging because the skilled people aren't where the jobs are or there may not be enough skilled people available.  But at the end of the day, on a national basis, the net job creation has to be high enough to start making a dent.  Bridging the gap between available jobs and qualified applicants will take care of some of the unemployed.  What about the rest?  North Dakota is doing well because of the Bakken.  The energy job market is attracting people faster than housing can be put in place.  I shudder to think about the inflated rents and sales prices that will likely ensue (which is the case in Ft McMurray, Alberta, home of the tar sands).  But ND can't carry the nation in creating jobs.

In the meantime, some folks may have to learn how to pick enough tomatoes to make a living.


Fargo said...

I know there are jobs going begging because the skilled people aren't where the jobs are or there may not be enough skilled people available.

That's for sure. I've been out of work for a while. When I do get calls from recruiters, too many are for jobs in distant suburbs - North Chicago, Downers Grove, Buffalo Grove. I moved back to Chicago to get away from having to commute by car. We have a mortgage, and the comps for recent sales are low enough that my husband makes jokes about living in a submarine, so selling and relocating is not an option. At least he still has a good job with real job security.

Until recently, I never had trouble finding a job in the Loop, or in a neighborhood easily accessible by public transit. I don't have a car, and really don't want to buy one. For what these jobs are paying, taking on a car payment, registration, insurance, gas and maintenance expenses would really eat into that income. The commute time would destroy the rest of my life. I'd have nothing left for anything else.

For now, it's temp jobs in locations near public transit, until I can find a permanent job in a location where the commute and its costs would not eat my alive.

I have a friend in Oak Lawn who has good qualifications and job experience. He's been looking for a long time and getting contract positions for 3-6 months. His current contract position is in Lincolnshire, a commute of 42 miles and approx. 2 hours (in good weather). It's eating him alive, but he has 2 kids, so he took the only thing that was available at the time.

Kheris said...

I think your story is far more common than most people care to admit, including my friend.

Fargo said...

I've occasionally posted something to this effect on Facebook and gotten multiple responses, and that's just among a handful of people. I suspect that there are a LOT of folks in this situation.

The other side of this is lots of suitable jobs - in other parts of the country. When I do a Chicago search on a job web site, I sometimes get a bunch of results from someplace like Greenville, SC, Charlotte, Atlanta, etc. Apparently these recruiters are putting tags in these ads to make them come up in Chicago searches.

If I didn't have a mortgage and other things keeping me here, maybe that would be an option, but I'm in no position to go there, even if I wanted to.