On the face of it, consistent unemployment and slow economic growth are hardly portents for optimism, and job seekers in the U.S. are hardly enthused by crippling national debt and the ever-present threat of further recession. The truth is that the economic situation is never so simple, and as long as individuals in the hunt for employment show initiative and a willingness to pursue their own course, there are numerous reasons for them to stay optimistic during the economic downturn. (For more on jobs during the recession, check out Top 10 Recession-Survival Side Jobs.)
TUTORIAL: Economics Basics
Consider the following as shimmering lights in an overcast sky.
Subjective Reporting Can Manipulate Statistics and Distort the Economic Truth
It is not statistics themselves that cause pessimism among job seekers, but more the way that they are presented through subjective reporting. If it suits a resource or media channel, they will beat the drum about high unemployment and crippled economic growth for as long as possible, and only reference statistics that fully support their claims. The truth remains that if you take a look at the U.S. economy and its activities as a whole, there are grounds for cautious optimism and expectation of growth among job seekers.
For example, although unemployment remains unnervingly high, it has dropped considerably since reaching 10.1% in October 2009, and has subsequently steadied between 9.0% and 9.2% since April 2011. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the number of job openings in the U.S. rose to 3.4 million in September; this marriage of steadying unemployment and increased recruitment paints a decidedly more positive picture for job seekers. It's important to take the opportunity to educate yourself about the economic position, and do not rely on media reports or bulletins to form the basis of your opinions. (For additional reading, see What The Unemployment Rate Doesn't Tell Us.)
The Recession Takes With One Hand and Creates With the Other
Consider the pace of technological advancement and the innovations it has spawned; many of these advancements have had a dramatic effect on the fortunes of businesses during periods of economic downturn. For example, a Human Capital Institute survey revealed that during the initial period of economic recovery in 2010, more than 90% of U.S. businesses were outsourcing at least a small portion of their workloads, with independent freelancers being hired to complete non-strategic and skill-based tasks. This is the continuation of a trend that developed two decades ago, as the average total of outsourced work rose from 6% to more than 27% since 1990, while networking and remote working capabilities have been dramatically improved.
The idea has taken hold as companies can use outsourcing to save money during a recession by using independent contractors to complete specialist tasks, and then pay them on a single project basis. This means that firms have more flexibility as the economy slows, and are not committed to vast salary payouts that cannot be maintained. While a period of recession often forces companies to cut jobs or permanent positions, it affords opportunities to job seekers with marketable skills who can fill the void. Not only this, but being able to outsource work allows organizations to remain generative and reinvest money back into the economy. (For more information on freelancing, check out Freelancing 101: Alternatives To Unemployment.)
Time Rather Than Recession Remains the Greatest Destroyer of Businesses
Do not be fooled that a recession sounds the death knell for prosperity. While some businesses and industries are impacted, others seem to thrive in the same circumstances. In fact, recession often only exaggerates the performance of a specific market sector, and serves to either accelerate its decline or allow it to at least consolidate its growth. Look at how newspaper organizations, the traditional publishing industry and technological applications, such as photofinishing, have failed during the recession.
This thinking is reflected in the industries that have thrived in 2011, as the global economy has slowed and the threat of double-dip recession has remained prominent. The stagnant economy has had no negative impact at all on the increasingly prosperous wind power and e-commerce sectors, as consumer awareness has increased alongside the desire for convenient and constantly accessible retail outlets. Solar power and biotechnology are also markets that have experienced significant growth in the last 12 months, and proof that a recession is neither as influential or devastating as you may think. (For more on recession-proof industries, read Industries That Thrive On Recession.)
The Bottom Line
These three points gleam like beacons in what is an undeniably gloomy economic outlook, and show a way forward for job seekers and employers as we head towards 2012. For job seekers in particular, there is always room for optimism when a recession takes hold, because even the very worst economic climate can still encourage growth and develop opportunities for those who are determined enough to take advantage. Keep these points in mind as you continue your job search, and use facts rather than economic fiction to influence your strategy. (For related reading, see 9 Businesses That Thrive In Recession.)