Unemployed make their own work, form a collaborative

In Oregon, which last month had the largest jobless rate increase from a year ago in the country, a group of laid-off designers isn't taking the bad news sitting down.

The six out-of-work designers from Portland formed an architectural collaborative. Although it doesn't have the health care, benefits, high salaries and big jobs that their previous employers offered, it is a working group. And in this recession, working is a plus.

Being light on overhead, the group, calling themselves Cohesion, meets in restaurants, borrowed conference rooms or a member's refinished basement, according to a story by Richard Read of The Oregonian. No more corporate offices for them. Now it's working from home.

"When they come through this tough economy, they might actually have a new firm that comes out of this," said Mark Green, Family Business Consulting Group senior associate in Salem, Ore. "When they don't have overhead, they have an advantage."

Instead of designing commercial buildings, so far they're designing house additions. Some also volunteer their work time.

"We're really hoping to get some larger stuff, but we know that the banks are reluctant to give people money right now," said member Bernadette Rubio, 38.

Oregon's unemployment rate rose to 12.1% in March, or 6.6 percentage points higher than what it was in March 2007. That incredible jump in Oregon, along with other states where double-digit unemployment has hit, may lead more laid off workers to consider such collaboratives and help turn the economy around.

At the end of the recession, whenever it comes, this may be the best the economy has to offer -- the ability of its workers to get together and continue working in the face of record unemployment.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net
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