"Our employment is at-will — meaning we are as free to leave the company as it is to eliminate our position or terminate our employment. It works both ways, and many people forget that when bemoaning “big evil corporations interested only in making a buck.”
Our labor market flexibility is one thing that makes the U.S. economy better than most, with fewer regulations on freedom of movement and deployment of resources. It’s a big reason we typically have a lower unemployment rate than other countries.
After the first such round of workforce reductions a year prior, the same daughter (the most inquisitive of my four) asked if I had a backup plan. I pointed to my efforts to sharpen my Spanish, among other things. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many individuals who are proactive in that regard.
In addition to her speech pathology work, my sister, whose husband works in our industry, recently started selling cleaning supplies. One friend with whom I work is now an Uber driver in her free time. Another colleague at a previous job saved enough to open her own haircutting franchise. Many of the people working in the field have commercial driver’s licenses and experience in construction.
The more we build our human and financial capital, the more prepared we are when a downturn comes or to capitalize on other opportunities. Such behavior and farsighted use of spare time makes this possible — that’s why the best job security is job insecurity.
I have found that differentiating between cyclical unemployment (shifts in the business cycle from growth to downturn and back) and frictional unemployment (voluntary movements) is not terribly difficult for my college students to grasp in the abstract. But when it happens to you in real life, it naturally tends to have an adverse emotional impact.
There are various forms of temporary assistance available to people who find themselves swept up by large macroeconomic forces. Many companies offer severance packages. As a society, we have deemed it appropriate to offer unemployment insurance funded by taxes levied on employers. There’s COBRA and Medicaid for those qualifying to help with health expenses.
In December, the government helped by possibly flipping the script on the other type of unemployment — structural — when Congress and President Barack Obama lifted the ban on crude oil exports."
"Also in the budget is a proposal to enhance unemployment insurance.
Assistance for workers who can prove they lost their job as a direct result of liberalized trade has always had support. It helps smooth acceptance of changes that will benefit our country as a whole. The proposed changes would pay a person a portion of the difference between the job lost and a lower-paying new job.
These modifications, however, would numb the incentives of the good habits spurred by job insecurity.
Current Federal Reserve policies don’t help, as they discourage folks from saving, a cruel irony given that those very same policies play a role in the boom and bust nature of our industry.
There have actually been a few calls to “bail out” the oil industry, but that’s the last thing that needs to happen.
We should be bailing out fewer companies, not more. What those employed in our industry, and likely laborers in general, would probably appreciate more than anything is stable policy from Uncle Sam, so they can shape and direct their lives on their own terms."