Monday, June 6, 2011

Odd Jobs, Oddly Appropriate

We find “odd” jobs interesting – maybe because it proves that you can actually get paid to do something other than what you’re doing, or maybe because we are intrigued by what we don’t know (we like learning new things – especially when presented on TV!).  It made national news last week when the Library of Congress hired their first “Wikipedian,” and we love watching (I mean, “learning” about) the gritty occupational details featured on the many TV shows centered around odd jobs (like “Dirty Jobs” and “Deadliest Catch”).  There is even a website dedicated to helping you find “odd jobs” (like “muffin top model,” and they said you didn’t have what it takes to be a model).

If you are interested in a new line of work, now is as good a time as ever to go for that unique opportunity (minus those “get rich quick if you call in the next 20 minutes” MC Hammer ads).  According to data released Friday, new “mainstream” job opportunities weren’t as plentiful in May as they had been earlier in the year.  The economy added just 54,000 jobs in May, the lowest monthly amount since last September.  (Private sector, where most of us live, added 83,000 jobs and local government lost 28,000 jobs.)  While the fact that the economy is adding jobs is good, smart people agree the number of jobs added to the economy since the recovery began in 2010 has not been enough to support the estimated number of new entrants into the labor market each month (needed to keep the economic recovery moving forward).  Just consider: In May, 2 years after the official end to the recession, about 14 million people were still out of work that were actively looking for work, compared to about 9 million people (on average) in 2008.  This means in the coming months, if you are looking for work you may have higher competition for those mainstream jobs.  If your dream is to work for local government, you may be waiting a little while, especially if you do not have a college degree. 

Friday’s employment numbers also may shed some light on why we’ve been seeing more teenage finalists than usual on American Idol – because they aren’t able to find alternative work!  The data shows that almost 25% of teenagers (aged 16-19) looking for work can’t find work, and a deeper look into the numbers reveals a staggering 40% of African American teens are unemployed.  Further, only 33% of all teenagers are counted as “in the labor force” (either have a job or are looking for a job).  That means over 11 million American teenagers are not earning money, nor are they actively looking to.   Perhaps teenagers, typically associated with doing “odd jobs” for money, should take this potential work more seriously (it’s not like there’s anything on TV over the summer so there’s no time like the present to get a move on it).  Besides, what is the alternative (illegal jobs don’t count, sorry)?  Much to our dismay, being featured on Maury, or Jerry, or Judge Judy does not count as being productive members of society.

The lack of a recovery in the “mainstream” jobs we’ve been relying upon would seem to indicate it is time for all of us to put our thinking caps on to invent new jobs for the future.  Teenagers are in an especially good position to be working toward having an “odd” future.  After all, what now might be considered “odd jobs” may just be the key to our economic recovery!  In other words, dare to be “odd.”
(Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Bureau of Economic Research,

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