Becoming a Statistic (lies in numbers)

So, I am getting ready to rejoin the ranks of People With Paying Jobs, and this morning, I heard a radio report that ‘the economy’ is doing better. Anyone who has been watching the world knows that ‘the economy’ can do really well while most people are struggling. I’m about to become a statistic: I am going to be working in a public-sector ‘new job’.

But what does that mean in the real world? I’ve been unemployed longer than unemployment insurance benefits cover, so I wasn’t counted among the 5.9% unemployment rate. I was in the invisible number of people who are often referred to as having given up on finding work. I hadn’t given up, of course, though I often wanted to. You can’t eat ‘I give up’. So I have improved my lot, and that of my family by finding a job, right?

Well, about that… my new job is temporary, and provides no benefits and no guarantee of hours or stability of schedule. I could work 7 days one week, and none the next, with no warning. So it’s nothing to build a budget around. Before finding work, I was the ‘family taxi’, driving my daughter to high school (4.2 miles away on roads without sidewalks, many with 50+ mph speed limits) because there is no bus, driving my son and his girlfriend, who lives with us, to college and to their new jobs, and, because my car is an automatic with more than two seats and enclosed storage, it is the vehicle of choice for all trips carrying 3 or more people, groceries, or anyone but my fiance (whose stick-shift pickup truck is unreliable at best). Now, all that may need to change with little time to arrange for the changes.

Also, if you take into account my previous profession (teaching), it becomes clear that my new $15.26/hr job with no benefits would still be a considerable drop in wages even if I work 7 full days every week. The economy is improving, but my economy… well, it’s complicated.