The Next Challenge For The Economy, Personified


The financial crisis appears to be over (the bailed-out banks will likely struggle for years, but this will be just general crappiness rather than life-threatening panic).  The stock market is up nearly 40%.  The Fed is beginning to talk about inflation again.  The housing market is showing early signs of stabilizing.  Consumer confidence is once again on the rise.

So what’s left?

Figuring out how to employ the 5+ million Americans who have lost their jobs in the past two years, especially those who used to work in real-estate, automotive, and finance.

Lots of these folks used to make a lot of money.  They used to own houses.  They used to buy cars, trade stocks, and buy flat-screen TVs.  Now, in many cases, the only jobs they can get–which are outside their industries of expertise–pay $10 an hour.  And if they take those jobs to survive, they won’t be able to retrain themselves in other industries or keep looking for better-paying jobs. 

And what are they doing in the meantime?  In some cases, losing their own houses and moving back in with their parents–like 41-year-old former Phoenix mortgage broker Colt Phipps who just told his story to the New York Times:

I’VE been a mortgage broker in the Phoenix area for 15 years. In April 2007, the company I had been with for a year went out of business. That was the latest of four companies I’ve worked for since 2000. They all either went under or let most of the staff go, including me.

In December 2007, the bank foreclosed on my house, and I had no choice but to move in with my parents, five miles away. My sister has three children, and she had no room. My fiancée, Brandi Wetch, and I have been living in my parents’ house for about a year and a half now…

The house Colt lost to foreclosure was 5,000 square feet.  His parents’ house is 1,100.  His fiance used to work as a mortgage-processor.  Now she works at Home Depot.  He checks the Internet for jobs every morning, and he rarely hears back.  His forays into new fields ended badly: He hit a traffic cone during his Postal Service driving test and got fired on the spot.  Insurance “didn’t work out.”  His real hope is that the mortgage business will take off again.

If the mortgage business takes off again, it will be because banks have once again gotten stupid.  The mortgage hangover will take years to work out, and many of the jobs in the industry are gone for good.  So, too, for jobs in other areas of real estate (construction, brokerage, home-equity, appraisal, inspection), car-making, and Wall Street.

So, what is Colt going to do?

Photo excerpt: New York Times

Read Colt Phipps’ full story here >



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