Posted by: Rob | January 27, 2009

Dude, where’s my job?

I saw this on google news the other day and had to go read the essay.  Although the essay is okay from an entertaining perspective, the resulting debate in the comments was much funnier.

Even though the pace here in sunny Alberta was, in my view, largely unsustainable, it has seemed to many that the gravy train would run forever.

Didn’t like your job?  No prob Bob!  Quit and move on to the next one.  Help was always wanted somewhere.

Even amongst the trades and in the ranks of the technical professions, it seemed if you were upwardly mobile and figured you were worth more and mobile to boot, bigger and better jobs were easy to be had.  There was the biggest labour shortage I’d ever seen.

But things started to tremble a little.  The once certain future of never ending riches started to frazzle a little.  I suggested to my grown girls that perhaps they find a decent job with a decent employer and plan on sticking it out for a bit.  I figured that things were going to get a bit rough.

What an understatement.  As 2008 rolled out and 2009 rolled in, the news just kept getting worse and worse.  Billions of dollars worth of mega projects to build fossil fuel processing plants in Alberta have suddenly been shelved, put on hold or outright cancelled.

Layoffs in the energy sector have started in a big way.  Construction jobs, engineering jobs, technical jobs.  All going away.

As this wave ripples through the overall economy, times are going to get worse.  Jobs at fast food outlets that have gone wanting for several years now will likely be filled.  And filled by workers keen on keeping those jobs as other prospects will continue to dry up.

It will be interesting to see how the current generation of young people, who’ve never experienced an economic contraction first hand, will handle it.  Those pop culture things they love – live music shows, pubbing and clubbing, and a steady stream of electronic gizmo’s and gadgets – are going to become, perhaps, unaffordable.  At least for a while.

This may be the start of a whole new renaissance for the public library.

I remember the last downturn.  It was as the ’70’s were fading into the 1980’s.  I’d graduated from high school in ’79 and was working through a series of grunt, labouring jobs, trying to figure out what to do.  I’d married and started a family.  We were quite poor, really, in retrospect, but we had a place to live and food to eat.  Happily we hadn’t purchased a house yet (couldn’t afford it, really) as mortgage interest rates climbed into the double digits.  Many, many people lost their homes to foreclosure.  Many simply walked away.

I wound up deciding to go back to university and so spent the latter half of the ’80’s getting an education.  I guess the timing was good as jobs were getting to be more available as the country began to emerge from the recession.

Nowadays, as lay-off plans are fully in the works at my current workplace, I can’t figure what to make of the future.  I have no idea what I’ll do if I happen to land on the “cut” list.  I’m not that concerned, mind you, as I would regard such as the impetus to get on about doing what I really want to do anyways.

As long as we have a place to live and food to eat, we’ll be just fine.



  1. It could be a reality shock for them. What I fear most is that companies will continue to do what they’ve been doing for years, laying off middle-aged, experienced people for younger, cheaper workers. And if the article is any indication, they can pay them with birthday cards and confetti.

    Yeah, I really got a kick out of that. What? Recognize my birthday? Give me showy, cheap crap? F*** that. Just give me the cash.

    An old adage I try to remember:

    “Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.”

  2. I would caution you not to be too laze fare about not making the “cut” list. Someone very close to me felt completely immune and was unpleasantly surprised one recent morning.

    Ah yes. Laissez faire. It’s my middle name! (sorry, inside joke). But, honestly, today nothing surprises me. Still, I suppose it would be prudent to commence working up a contingency plan. If only to alleviate the anxiety of those dependent upon me.

  3. always tried to have a back up plan – my husband did contract work, and there was potential instability there, so we lived on my check, and used his to pay off the house… we got lucky. very lucky.

    this down turn seems to be hitting deep… hope the energy sector picks up. If Prez Obama follows through with plans, perhaps an infusion of cash into energy infrastructure in the USA will splash northwards?

    A paid off house certainly creates much ease in one’s mind. In fact, no debt at all is even better (although it doesn’t contribute, it seems, to “economic growth”).

    Eventually, the demand for fossil fuels – even in their dirtiest forms (i.e. Alberta tar sands) – will return. Dependence upon them is too great still to effect a sharp turn to something else.

    I was told once that for my demographic (tail end of the boomers) there will never be incentives given to retire. Apparently, our skills and knowledge will likely always be in demand. I was, of course, disappointed to hear that. Sadly, it didn’t provide sufficient incentive to strike off in an entrepreneurial bent to assure my own future life of leisure.

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