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Six Ways We're Stifling the Unemployed

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It's hard being jobless, but now it's getting tougher to get back in.

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Even though we brace for the worst, when the unemployment numbers are announced each month, it's hard not to be shocked.

With the news on Friday that the unemployment rate is now at 10.2%, no one knows quite what to expect next. The only thing we do know is that some of us will struggle to find employment today, tomorrow, and the day after that.

Politicians, economists, employers -- they all say they're trying to help, but recent developments and shifts in society are actually adding stones to the wall that's keeping more than one out of every 10 Americans unemployed.

Quieting the Libraries

Libraries have always been a popular destination for job seekers, but states have recently been re-reading their budgets and closing the books.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Board of Trustees announced last month that it will be "reducing library service hours, closing and merging locations, reducing staff, and increasing fines and fees" to help make up for a lack of funding. Similar stories are playing out across the country, in cities in Colorado, Washington, and Michigan.

Libraries are an essential tool for many job seekers -- when you're struggling to afford groceries, Internet and publication subscriptions are long gone from the budget.

Marketing Yourself Online

Even if you can afford Internet on your unemployment check, today's hiring managers are expecting applicants to have a strong -- and often expensive -- web presence.

LinkedIn, the Facebook for professionals, costs $24.95 per month for the most basic upgrade, which allows you to send three messages a month, see as many as 300 profiles per search, and organize your connections into five folders. Buying a domain name for your must-have website should cost between $5 and $35 a year. Not tech-savvy enough build your own? A professional web design company will help for at least $200.

Society applauds social media and the new tools that are available online, but popularity -- and employment -- is still often dependent on the depth of your wallet.

Entrepreneurial Obstacles

If you can't find a job, make one. Right?

Between 1993 and 2008, start-ups in their first 90 days accounted for 14% of the country's hiring, but that sector has been hit hard in today's economy. Usually considered the backbone of American business culture, start-ups are now struggling to get funding and locate customers.

Entrepreneurs have to jump through narrower hoops to get commercial loans because banks say they're being watched by regulators who are instating stricter standards. As small business owners are increasingly turned down by big banks like Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC), they're turning to smaller community banks for help.

"It's just a huge snowball effect," Dale Stamp, president of Colorado Springs brokerage Grubb & Ellis/Quantum Commercial Group (GBE), told The Gazette. "When there's less deals done, there's less tax revenue for the locals, the state, and the feds. It goes on and on. There's just less activity in the market."

Even the $730 million in stimulus funding that went to the Small Business Administration (SBA) hasn't made a dent in the sector. Through September 30, SBA lenders in Baltimore made 379 loans valued at $70.5 million in the program, compared to 498 valued at $96.4 million in 2008.

Economist Robert Fairlie, who analyzes different Bureau of Labor Statistics data, told the Wall Street Journal that recent statistics suggest start-ups are now being created more out of necessity than opportunity. That "does not bode as well for economic growth," he says.
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