Fewer jobs and more job seekers

MinnPost Asks: Donna Johnson

Johnson is a job counselor with Ramsey County Workforce Solutions and has worked in human services for 25 years helping the unemployed. From offices in a North St. Paul strip mall, she and a dozen other counselors each handle a caseload of up to 100 clients. Funding dictates how many clients their office can handle. Federal stimulus dollars recently ran out, and there are already several hundred people on a waiting list for services.

MinnPost: How does the current employment picture compare with past downturns?

Donna Johnson:
This is the worst I’ve ever seen. Even five years ago, there just wasn’t the demand for our services that there is now, and we were able to get people in and out more quickly. They weren’t out of work for long. The hardest part for me is that the economy is so bad, and I can’t control that.

MP: What are some of the particular challenges the unemployed face now in the process of finding work?

Maintaining hope. I think hope is real important. Clients are seeing more rejections, and they are more discouraged. A lot of times, they are required to apply online, which they see as very impersonal. If someone gets an interview, they see their hope go up, but then if they don’t get the job, it is natural to say, ‘What did I do wrong?’ But you might have done 99 percent right. There is so much competition out there, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You really need to stick with it but pace yourself,

MP: What conclusions have you reached to explain the current situation?

Basically, it has to do with the number of jobs that aren’t out there. That’s the big one. I do see people getting jobs, from low to high paid, every week, but they are the exception. From what we can see, there just aren’t enough permanent, full-time, well-paying jobs.

MP: Many job experts now say that most of us can expect to change job fields and employers several times during our working lives. Are your clients looking at employment from that perspective?

Donna Johnson
Ramsey County Workforce Solutions
Donna Johnson: “There is so much competition out there, and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You really need to stick with it but pace yourself.”

DJ: Yes. Clients will come to us and say they need computer classes, training in something else, or they want to go back to school. And when people do what it takes to prepare for something new, they want to know they will be guaranteed a job afterward. And there are no guarantees. There are a lot of question marks about where we are going.…We are all crossing a bridge. But as we are crossing, the bridge is moving.

MP: Which clients find it toughest to find work in the current job market?

In general, people ages 50 and up. It’s not impossible – I’ve seen people who are 60 getting back into good jobs. But there are lots of issues with being an older worker. If your salary was high, then it’s often harder. But you need to try to control the controllables. You might need to acquire computer skills. And you can’t make yourself younger, but you need to look up to date.

MP: How would you describe the circumstances of that age group?

These are baby boomers with pretty good salary levels when they lost their jobs.They’ve lost money in their 401Ks. Many were trying to take care of themselves, their parents and their children. Now they have a gap. How are they going to make it through the next six years – or 10? That’s a big challenge with the boomers.

MP: What is the emotional toll for those who are unemployed?

Grief, mainly grief for life as it used to be, for the job that wasn’t supposed to end. It’s isolating.

MP: Do you feel secure in your job?

  Yes. But, of course, nobody is secure in their job. Anything can happen, and I am aware of that.

MP: If you were not an employment counselor, what other job would you seek?

It would be something in human services. Perhaps, hospice and grief counseling. I already have work experience with grief.

Ellen Tomson is a St. Paul freelance writer.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/22/2010 - 09:19 am.

    Sadly, I strongly suspect that workers such as Ms. Johnson will, indeed, be wondering what job they’re going to find next.

    The psychological dysfunctions of the current crop or Republican “leaders” make them unable to have compassion or empathy for those who are out of work. Although those of us who are healthy will read this article and feel care and concern for the people Ms. Johnson describes, the dysfunctional emotional response in many of the current Republican leaders is the exact opposite: they RESENT these people.

    The fact that the state spends ANY money seeking to help such people provokes them to frustration, anger, and rage, not at those responsible for the economic realities that have put so many out of work, but rather, at the victims of those people – at those who are out of work themselves.

    Although Governor Dayton will veto these efforts, I hope the citizens of Minnesota who voted for a legislature that would change things for the better are going to pay attention because the legislature they elected is likely to do a great deal to make worse the lives of those solid, hard working people who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to find work, to find insurance, to be able to afford food and housing, to continue to live at all.

    Those who are less able, and for reason of their own psychological issues, less employable will fare even worse.

  2. Submitted by Leslie Davis on 11/22/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    One must comprehend the gravity of our state and nation’s economic situation in order to open their mind to new ideas. Ellen Tomson’s thoughts on the job market offer some clarity about our future…which is bleak.
    Don’t you think it’s absurd to expect our problems to be solved by the people who caused them and continue to support them?
    To address our economic future some people cross their fingers and hope for the best, some continue to support the ideas that haven’t worked in the past, yet others suggest prayer. While prayer might work for some people in some instances it will not create jobs or a sound money policy. Taxing will not work nor will cutting budgets.
    So what will work?
    “The Davis Money Plan” will work. It is essential in order to create thousands of jobs in Minnesota and bring debt-free money into circulation.
    I have presented “The Davis Money Plan” to The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, The League of Minnesota Cities, The Minnesota Truckers Association, dozens of mayor’s and city administrators, and numerous other groups and individuals.
    Not one single group or person has opposed my Plan or suggested that it won’t work. Their only reason for not supporting my Plan was that it would signal support for Leslie Davis for Governor.
    Now that Minnesotans have lost that great opportunity we can move on to support my Plan. Here’s a snapshot of “The Davis Money Plan” and what it can accomplish…
    • Balanced budget
    • Protected environment
    • Create thousands of jobs & incomes
    • Cut fuel and axle taxes in half
    • Build and maintain safe, state-of-the-art roads and bridges
    1. FACT – Banks do not lend depositor’s money. They create new electronic digit money for loans.
    3. The “modification” will require state-chartered banks to create money debt-free, for the construction and maintenance of all public roads and bridges.
    4. Today, when state-chartered banks make loans they simply create the money as electronic bookkeeping entries. The money is just numbers in their computers. When you write a check or use your ATM card you put those numbers (money) into circulation and the money can then move freely through the economy.
    5. Banks will create money for Davis Plan roads and bridges by making electronic bookkeeping entries in their computers, just like they do now when they make loans. Except THIS IS NOT A LOAN but a final debt-free payment for approved production and does not have to be paid back to anyone.
    6. Half of the fuel, axle and registration taxes will be eliminated and half will be used to balance the state budget and reduce some property taxes.
    7. Individuals and businesses will save billions of dollars.
    8. “The Davis Money Plan” creates demand for products, services and thousands of high-paying jobs. It provides desperately needed incomes, the cash flow Minnesota’s stagnant economy badly needs, and safe, state-of-the-art roads and bridges, and sustainable prosperity.

    Be a “Financial Freedom Fighter” and support “The Davis Money Plan” or watch the further demise of our empire.

    Leslie Davis

  3. Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 11/22/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    With decreased funding and few jobs for workers, where shall the unemployed turn to for assistance? Or are they supposed to starve, so the minor unemployment problem will be ‘solved?”

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