Hope for the Unemployed in 2010?

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unemploymentAccording to a Feb. 12, 2010, article in The New York Times, "The Obama administration projected Thursday that the unemployment rate would fall this year by only a little, if at all, and would remain well over 6 percent until 2015."

Unemployment is still big news, no matter what part of the country you live in. If you are not affected by it, you surely know someone who is. A Gallup Poll published the same day cites unemployment as the No. 1 problem of concern to Americans, with 31 percent of people mentioning it above all other domestic problems -- the highest percentage since 1983.

I took a moment in the weeks after The State of the Union address to reach out to my network of unemployed people here in New York, a network I have been cultivating for seven months. I spoke to people in a variety of fields with different levels of income and education. It's interesting to see what this admittedly small sampling of out-of-work Americans had to say about their situations, and whether or not they are hopeful -- for themselves or the country -- for the remainder of 2010.

Polina, 22, graduated in 2009 to a desolate economy and was not even able to find a job in her field from which to be laid off. She says she is working now, at a job "not even close" to her field of training, and that she "barely makes enough to meet her basic expenses."

Nancy, mid-20s, was working as a fashion designer when she was laid off in January 2009. She currently walks dogs in her Brooklyn neighborhood and freelances as a fashion journalist to make ends meet. When asked about her hopes for finding a design job in the upcoming year, she said: "I have low expectations, despite my continued efforts to network and send out my resume. When I was laid off in January 2007, I found a job by mid-March. I'd say that's probably what I'm aiming for right now." Despite her long-term unemployment, Nancy is not deterred. She says that this year of unemployment has only reinforced her knowledge of herself as a driven and motivated individual and that "2010 feels a little more hopeful in my mind, and I am somewhat comforted knowing other equally talented people who are still without jobs as well."

Tony, 36, was laid off in January 2009 from his job as a purchasing specialist. He has yet to find work and feels that 2010 will be no better. As a visual artist who was working in administration to pay bills and sustain his art, "it was never an ideal situation." But now, he says, that office job "seems like a ... dream life." He adds, "If it weren't for my domestic partner, I would probably be living with my parents in suburban Cleveland. ... I am not hopeful for any aspect of the economy."

At the other end of the spectrum, Diana, mid-30s, was laid off from a job in Web site administration and information services and was lucky enough, after only a matter of months, to find a job in her same field, making more than she was previously. She says she is hopeful for other unemployed people and the economy in 2010.

And Sagine, 26, who actually quit her job in 2008 (right before the decline of the economy) is also now employed, working as a health-care specialist in Manhattan. She says, "I was pretty insecure in my unemployment. But when I finally started to embrace it, everything changed for the better. I started meeting people, working on projects, juggling two part-time jobs. I was happy! When I reached this point, I became more successful in my job search. Though I attribute my success in my job search to my change in attitude, I am still aware that I landed one of the few jobs in my field. Boy, am I thankful!" And is she hopeful for the year ahead, and those still unemployed? She hopes that "those unemployeds I have left behind will take advantage of every moment to pursue their dreams and goals."

After speaking with these people, and several who wished to remain anonymous, I can be nothing but hopeful for the year ahead. Though my unemployment compensation will run out soon -- and I fear I will be forced to take a job well below my pay scale and definitely out of my field -- the networking I have done and projects I have been able to work on during my unemployment can only lead to good things and a better position when the economy finally does improve.

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