It’s Labor Day, a federal holiday with roots to the labor disputes in Canada back in the 1870’s. The first celebration of Labor Day in the United States took place on the streets of New York City, September 5, 1882. The tradition of taking time to rest and enjoy picnics, parades, backyard barbeques, and fireworks continues to this day—with one sobering difference.
This year the dark cloud of soaring unemployment hovers over the country. When the United States Labor Department released unemployment figures last month, the news was as stunning as it was disheartening. For the first time in 26 years, unemployment reached 9.7% — put another way, 1 out of every 10 able bodied workers are now without a job.
It’s even worse for teenagers. I read in the Wall Street Journal today that the unemployment rate among teens hit 25.5% which, the Journal reports, is “the highest since the government began keeping records in 1948.”
These are incredibly challenging economic times.
Yes, Focus has also felt the pain of reducing the staff twice in the past year. Last week, after much prayer and consideration by the leadership team, we made the tough decisions. It is hard to understand the strain and pressure these decisions place on all involved. Some organizations that I am aware of did not make the hard decisions, and they have now closed their doors. Focus is nowhere near that precipice. I thank the Lord that He provided 95% of our budget for the year with about three weeks left to go.
However, that 5% is a big number. About $6.6 million dollars. Thus, we needed to adjust the expenses. In reality, it impacts people I know and many that I am friends with. Our kids play together and that is the most difficult aspect of leadership. My prayers go out to each person.
You can imagine how heavy my heart is this weekend.
To the larger community, if you are making a career change either by choice or through a downsizing at your place of employment, I’d like to point you to several valuable resources and articles. First, for those who desire to better utilize their skills, or who long for a deeper level of fulfillment from their current job, I highly recommend 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. You’ll find the details here.
I’d also encourage you to check out six short articles we’ve assembled which deal with changing careers and job hunting. These insights were originally drafted by the good folks at Crown Financial Ministries:
- Overview: Making a Career Change
- Developing a Job Search Strategy
- Why We Change Careers
- Choosing the Right Job for the Right Reason
- Common Career Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Additionally, you might find these topics of interest:
- Unemployment Is No Vacation: Supporting someone who is out of work
- Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed
- Making Ends Meet
- Abiding Unemployment
One final thought. If you know someone who has recently lost their job, they’ve lost more than a steady income. They may have to put off a much needed vacation, cancel an anniversary celebration, forgo a repair on the family car or house, or skip the overdue trip to the dentist. If they were a small business owner, they might have lost their life savings not to mention the death of a dream. Now is the time when we ought to be about the business of bearing each others burdens.
With that in mind, you’d be amazed at how much of an encouragement it is when someone does the “little things” for a family in need. Why not mow their yard . . . bring over a sack of groceries . . . bake a loaf of bread . . . or offer to watch their kids so they can have a date or go on a job interview. There’s also a real value in being a sounding board by providing a listening ear. And, while you’re thinking of creative ways to reach out, why not invite them to a cookout at your house this Labor Day where you supply the meal?
After all, when someone loses a job, there’s a temptation to withdraw or avoid contact with others due to some level of embarrassment. Seek them out. Help them network with others who might have a job opening. Pursue them with the love of Jesus and add them to your family’s prayer list. If ever there was a time when the body of Christ should step up and be their brothers’ keeper, it’s during this tough season in our nation’s history.
My heart goes out to those who are without work this Labor Day. I invite you to call us during regular business hours if you need someone to pray with, or if there is a particular resource that will make a difference in your situation. We’re here for you.