California unemployment reaches 11.2% in March

Not since 1941 has California hit such a high unemployment number.  If you had money, now would be a great time to buy up properties, stocks, artwork…if you had money.  But in addition to the 11.2% on the dole rolls, there are another few percentage points of the unemployed who don’t show up on these records — part-timers, those who have given up, struggling new entrepreneurs. 

What does that mean for California?  Well, for one, some people are just going to leave — move back to families in Minnesota, and White Plains, and Tuscon, where they’ll be able to recoup slowly while moving back in with parents, siblings, aunts, old friends.

When there is a severely stressful event or period of time, there are two types of stress that affect us.  There is unproductive stress — that is the type of stress that causes night sweats, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations and feelings of being completely overwhelmed.  We all know those.  In this crisis, this type of stress over a period of time (like we are experiencing now) can be destructive.  It erodes self confidence and zaps creativity.  People can be overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness.

The other kind of stress is productive stress which causes a discomfort.  This productive discomfort has the opposite impact on us.  It provokes creativity and it can produce profound innovation.  

The difference between the two is a very, very thin line.  If you are an optimist by nature, then you might stay more on the productive side.  If a pessimist, it may not take much to push you to an anxiety attack. 

In this economy, which will continue to fallout for many, many months and years to come (likely to the end of 2010), the challenge is to push pride away.  If you are not embarrassed by your plight, then it becomes easier to seek innovative solutions.  It is a hard fall to be in your 50’s and be unable to find a job.  It is tough.  No doubt.  May take one or two years to find employment.  Possibly.  Probably.  However, if the jobseeker can push pride aside, it opens the door to conversations with everyone.  And if you can have a conversation with everyone you meet about your job search, then it is possible that someone will know someone who has a job opening for you to apply to. 

I spoke with someone the other day who didn’t believe in resources like Twitter or Linked In or Facebook.  The reality is that these communication vehicles exist and denying their power just limits your own abilities to connect with others worldwide.  In the Great Depression, people no longer greeted each other with “Hello, how are you?”  Instead they asked, “Are you working?”  Over the past few months, every conversation with friends now usually starts with “How’s your business doing?” or “Is your job secure?” and more often than not the answer isn’t very good. 

I suspect that within the next few months friends will start sharing innovative ideas that have arisen out of their productive discomfort and then we’ll see new businesses starting, that, as they grow, will start hiring the 11.2 or 12.6% unemployed.  The strength of the United States has always been with small business innovation.  It is just that the big guys got greedy.  But as that equalizes, I imagine great innovation surfacing.

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