What jobs? There aren’t any jobs in the U.S.A. these days. I’m peeved.

There is the fact that I’ve been struggling to find permanent and pertinent employment for quite a few years now, so I may be a bit biased about this topic. Sadly, it seems that as time goes by the job situation in this country is just deteriorating. I don’t see any improvements at all. In my state, Florida, there’s talk by the leaders and politicians of all the wonderful jobs being created currently. Unfortunately, a bit of research will show you almost immediately that the vast majority of those jobs are in three industries that are historically low paying, low skilled, and often uncaring toward their employees: restaurant/hospitality, customer service (call centers), and retail.

Oh, sure. There are quite a few skilled jobs for medical professionals in Florida, the land of the newly wed and nearly dead; that’s fine for those who are interested in careers in that field. However, truth be known, the medical industry is something many of us prefer to avoid, as employees or customers. So, what does that leave? Manufacturing? Information Technology? There’s some of those around here, sure; not an abundance, though. There’s no abundance of any jobs around here, or anywhere else in this country, I don’t think. I saw a recent stat the other day in the paper that for every available position, there are 3 applicants.

There is something seriously wrong with this. In today’s paper, there was an editorial by Jeff Danziger called Where the Jobs Aren’t. The jobs aren’t in the U.S. of A. anymore these days. Is anything being done about this by our leaders? Nope. Are U.S. companies trying to remedy this situation? Nope. As a matter of fact, the move to offshore labor is continuing its decades long rat-jumping-sinking-ship routine. The greed of the companies outsourcing to pad their bottom line and pay those multi-bazillion dollar CEO salaries is the reason the damned ship is sinking in the first place.

Case in point, and my inspiration for today’s rant: I have for many years been a pencil connoisseur. I collect and use high quality pencils for my everyday writing needs. I just love pencils. It’s been a passion since I was a child. Hey! We all have our little quirks, right? Anyway, One of my favorite pencils, probably the best pencil made in the world, is the Mirado Black Warrior. This pencil has the finest quality wood, the richest graphite filler, the best quality eraser, etc. It’s also a sleek, good-looking pencil.

Over the years, manufacturers of this pencil have changed. Originally, they carried the Berol brand name. Currently, they are labeled as Papermate. You’ll notice the prominent gold-embossed “USA” on the pencil above. The one I have in front of me on this desk also has that brand. It’s from an older batch that I had bought a year or so ago. I usually buy four or five boxes at a time when I buy them.

The other day, I noticed I was running low. Also, I’ve gotten my brother’s interest up in using good old pencils. He’s developed a daily crossword habit over the last year or so. I went to my local office supply store where I usually buy the pencils and found, to my sadness, that they no longer carry them. Pencils aren’t top sellers, so the stores don’t want to waste shelf space. I can understand that. It’s efficient retailing, after all. OK, I’ll resort to online shopping. I can live with that.

I found them easily enough and at a reasonable price, too. I ordered four boxes (48 pencils total) for $12.78 w/ free shipping. Can’t complain about that deal. All was well. I received them in just a couple days. Ain’t online shopping wonderful?! Oh, by the way, that’s another reason there are fewer jobs in the U.S. of A. these days, but that’s a whole ‘nother can-of-worms. I opened my padded UPS-delivered envelope to find… *GASP* my favorite beautiful Mirado Black Warrior pencils are now hecho en Mexico. That’s right, folks. Papermate has decided to help out the poor Mexican economy. Ain’t that great?

That means that somewhere in the U.S. of A. there’s a pencil manufacturing plant that is now struggling for contracts from other stationery companies for new pencil orders. They’re having to lay off 45% of their workforce in the meantime, though. All those folks in Small Factory-town, U.S.A. are now filing for their unemployment compensation; a much reduced income on which to feed themselves and their families. That’s OK, though because some Mexican workers are now earning a near slave wage to add to their family’s budget.

I have nothing against the wonderful citizens of our southern neighbor country. I don’t even have any major complaints with the somewhat diminished quality of the pencils I received yesterday. I do have a problem with that fact that no one seems to be doing a thing to resolve the jobs situation in my country. That’s really what this rant is about, not pencils.

Speaking of the pencils, though, I called Papermate customer support to find out if these were real Black Warriors or some cheap counterfeit knockoffs. The nice young customer support girl informed me that they were indeed genuine Papermate Mirado Black Warrior pencils; now being hecho’d en Mexico. Well, muchas gracias, then. At least Dixon Ticonderogas are still made in the good ol’ U.S. of A… for now, anyway. :( Oh, Papermate is sending me two complimentary boxes of the Black Warriors just for calling and commenting. Cool, huh? I get 24 free pencils and 90 employees of some factory get 26 weeks of minimal unemployment checks.

Doesn’t anyone care?

Hasta luego, mis compadres…

~Eric

Image credits: Mirado Black Warrior image found on this very interesting pencil site –> Ordinary Pencil

Un-modified factory clipart image courtesy of WPClipart.com

Further reading: An old, but still pertinent article –> U.S. manufacturing jobs fading away fast – USA Today

How a Pencil Is Made – Interesting video from YouTube

About V. T. Eric Layton

vtel57, Nocturnal Slacker

15 responses »

  1. lilbambi says:

    There are so many angles on the job issues in many areas of the country. It is tragic no matter how you look at it.

    It’s like the depression and other lean times that have happened since Little House on the Prairie moving to other areas (often cities, large towns in areas where jobs are still available).

    I do much of my work these days remotely for both websites and computer work.

    Traveling for my job often gets way too expensive between car maintenance/repairs, gas/oil, etc. Although it is still expensive to make remote computer repair available, it is worth it in the savings to the car and time.

    Those black pencils remind me of the Black Beauty pencils from Stephen King’s “The Dark Half”.

    http://www.brandnamepencils.com/brands/georowney/blackbeauty874.shtml

    • HA! Yeah… I remember that Stephen King story. I believe I read somewhere one time that King, in his early days, used to write with just such a pencil on yellow legal pads. He moved up to a type writer, a word processor, and eventually a standard computer.

      There are no easy answers regarding the current economic situation in the U.S. Nor does there seem to be much concern from short-attention-span, texting, mind-rotting reality TV watching citizens of this once great country. Our greatness diminishes with each new do-nothing Congress.

  2. ebrke says:

    It’s so hard to buy “made in America” these days. I was grateful when I bought a new bedspread and window curtains for my spare bedroom to know that the products had at least been made at the company’s own factory in the US from imported fabric. I had justified the expense because these are the bedroom furnishings that will follow me when I downsize and sell the house, but I’m glad I could support one of the few companies still manufacturing something here.

    I’ve given up looking for work since my long-term temp assignment ended last summer, but family issues might have kept me home anyway. None of the 10 former full-time employees who were laid off at the same time have found a job, with the exception of one who started a temporary assignment last week after exhausting unemployment benefits. What a sorry mess this country is in, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

    • I can’t say that I’ve given up looking for work because I just can’t afford, in the long run, to not be working. I’ve survived since August 2008 on a little luck, a lot of help from friends and family, credit cards, and the occasional side job. I’ve tried job fairs. I’ve tried networking sites. I’ve tried re-training. I’ve tried industry certifications. It’s not that I’ve given up on looking for work. It’s just that I’ve applied, often numerous times, for most local jobs here in the Tampa area; in fields as varied as computer networking all the way to convenience store clerk.

      I’m doing a small remodeling job for my niece the next week or so, but she’s my niece. She’s not made of money. I will probably only get a few bucks for days’ worth of labor. I’m not complaining. If I didn’t need the $ right now, I’d be over there doing it for nothing for her. I don’t like to charge family or friends for anything. I’ve had to this past couple years, though. :(

      • ebrke says:

        I do know how hard a time you’ve been having, Eric, and I know you’re still trying for full-time work. I wish I could work, but I really need to be home with my mother at this . point. I’m older than you, remember, so at least I have social security and some savings and figure I have to consider myself unwillingly retired at this point.

  3. Back in the 60s a particular idea ran through the country’s management schools, and that idea was, that since the average company’s greatest expenses were its payrolls, the best way to increase profitability, was to cut employees. And once all the graduates of these schools started running America’s companies, in the 70s and 80s, they went to town cutting employees.

    When they did, an odd thing happened: As employment went down, productivity went up. This is, after all, only natural, since whoever was left behind after “downsizing” was forced to do more work to make up for those who were gone. This productivity increase told all the “downsizing” MBAs that they had the right idea … so they dug in harder and let even more people go.

    It was a deadly cycle that fed itself. The more people companies let go, the more the remaining employees did to make up for them. Couple that with the addition of technology that allowed companies to offshore work to the Third World, where people were willing to work for pennies on the dollar compared to American workers, and you end up with a vicious spiral that convinced companies that American workers were their enemies … and they cut their American workforces even more deeply than before.

    The bottom line is that American companies want Americans as customers, but not as workers. Rational people know this is not a situation that can last; if you want lots of American customers, there have to be lots of working Americans who can afford to be customers. But companies actually think they can get away with the benefits of this kind of thinking. The “great recession” demonstrated that this doesn’t work … however, American businesses haven’t learned the lesson. They live in a fantasy world in which there are millions of American customers clamoring for their products, but they refuse to hire any Americans to work for them.

    Eventually they might actually figure out the corner into which they painted themselves … but my guess is, it will be too late, and the country will be doomed.

    • Very interesting… makes sense, too. BIG BIZ is just going to wring us all out till there isn’t a penny left, then the total economic/societal house of cards will collapse on itself. Those sucking it dry right now, though, don’t care about that far off down-the-road problem. They live for the day!

    • ebrke says:

      Absolutely right, but management is incapable of looking any further ahead than the next earnings report to Wall St. At this point, I wonder if they’re gambling that the developing economies will take over for American consumers. I don’t see how that can happen quickly enough to keep these short-sighted companies out of bankruptcy though.

      • Re: “At this point, I wonder if they’re gambling that the developing economies will take over for American consumers.”

        Yes, they are.

        Re: “I don’t see how that can happen quickly enough to keep these short-sighted companies out of bankruptcy though.”

        It can’t, but that won’t stop them from trying.

  4. ChipDoc says:

    Great article! Two points here:

    >There are quite a few skilled jobs for medical professionals in Florida, the land of the newly wed and nearly dead; that’s fine for those who are interested in careers in that field.As a matter of fact, the move to offshore labor is continuing its decades long rat-jumping-sinking-ship routine. The greed of the companies outsourcing to pad their bottom line and pay those multi-bazillion dollar CEO salaries is the reason the damned ship is sinking in the first place.<

    Not as true as you'd think. There are savings to be had in outsourcing jobs, but MUCH less than there were a decade or two ago when this trend began. In fact, many large companies (including mine) are shifting back to hiring here in the USA. Unfortunately, they're hiring mostly part-time low-wage workers who have the advantage of being native English speakers familiar with American idiom. Since costs have gone up for offshore workers, companies can now actually save money by hiring Americans.

    These days, the thing which brings wealth and prosperity to the average person in America is the same as it's always been – turning a good idea into a small business. Yes it's a pain in the ass and a big risk for those who try, but that's always been the case – no risk, no reward. But there are advantages too – the internet has made it possible for a small manufacturer to market to the entire world with just a connection, a camera, and a computer. You see it all the time in the world of motorcycle accessories. GripBuddies, BestBackrests, and Shoodaben Engineering are all just a guy with a little help from his family. Some of them (Ram Mounts springs to mind) have grown into substantial manufacturers with many employees.

    And THIS is the promise which America offers. Nobody's going to hand it to you, but you can still make your own opportunity.

    I really wish I still had the energy to try, but my kids will be just fine in the long run.

    • …many large companies (including mine) are shifting back to hiring here in the USA. Unfortunately, they’re hiring mostly part-time low-wage workers who have the advantage of being native English speakers familiar with American idiom.

      Yes, that’s true to a point. However, as you say, these jobs coming back are all in the low-paying, high-stress customer service/call center environments; today’s modern simile to the old style sweatshops. We get AC nowadays, though.

      Entrepreneurship is indeed the way to go. However, as you say, though, it is a pain in the ass. If it were easy, we’d all be rich and famous.

    • ebrke says:

      Trouble is, everyone isn’t an entrepreneur. I think part of the problem is that no one values Indians any more, only chiefs. (In case that’s confusing, I’m referring to the old adage “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians”.)

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