It’s an odd feeling reading in the newspaper about losing your job. I didn’t learn about being fired in the newspaper but the story of losing my position was there. Why I lost my job (along with more than a dozen of my colleagues) was the lead story in the business section of The Miami Herald on Feb. 22. It even had a picture of me right next to the paragraph describing how we lost our jobs with the public television program Nightly Business Report.
What’s nice about sharing your employment woes with the entire community is the outpouring of support you get. I received dozens of emails from friends, fans and colleagues across the country, expressing sympathy and pledging to help any way they could. It is humbling to hear how you have impacted people’s lives, especially those you don’t know directly. The range of emotions you feel when you face a job loss can be overwhelming, but a short email or voicemail from an associate can lift your spirits, giving you the strength to press on. The medium of the messages does not matter. A tweet of support, LinkedIn endorsement or text message of sympathy fuels the encouragement to face the anxiety of joblessness.
After news of my job elimination was in the newspaper and blogosphere, there were compassionate glances from fellow parents on the sidelines of the kids’ weekend soccer games. I didn’t have to break the news — most had already read about it. A pedestrian on the sidewalk stopped me in mid-stride to express his disappointment. The inevitable questions came: What are you going to do? Will you stay? Do you have anything you’re working on?
I am lucky my employment status was on the business front page. Thousands of other people are treated as statistics. As a business journalist, I have been guilty of that. Company layoffs numbering in the dozens as ours did rarely demand attention. The cuts have to be in the thousands to have any hope of getting much media attention. Even then, it’s only a number. The names of those losing their jobs are known only to their HR departments, in order to fill out the paperwork. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the nature of job loss. Each job cut is a story that begins en masse in boardrooms and offices but plays out individually in kitchens and living rooms across America.
In January, there were more than 1,300 mass layoffs of U.S. workers. A mass layoff impacts at least 50 people from a single company. More than 134,000 individuals were involved in such action, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. My job loss and that of my colleagues won’t show up in February’s report. There were too few of us. Some of us will appear in other employment data, but we will be just statistics. Each of those statistics has groceries to buy, bills to pay and hope for a new opportunity.
In a $16 trillion economy, it’s understandable that we become statistics. The stakes are just too big to pick up the noise from any of our individual unemployment stories. The weekly and government reports I have spent my career reporting on don’t ask why. They don’t ask who. They only ask how many. It’s our friends and family and colleagues who ask, “How can I help?”