Is the Jobs Crisis Over?

If it were, you wouldn't know it.

Not if you sat in on a snowy evening for one of our Career Counseling Sessions at the Sulzer Regional Library in Chicago.

Listen first to Mary. (Names and identifying details changed to protect privacy.) She tells me she speaks seven languages and then asks me to guess what they are. I guess four right.

She leads the conversation into a story about her decades of waitressing at one of Chicago's iconic restaurants and the fact that just last week, she got a $50.00 tip on a $50.00 check. "People tell me all the time what a great server I am," she says, "and I never understand. It's my job. It's easy. So what?" She concludes with, "I wonder if it would be possible to do something with the seven languages I know? I'm 55 years old. And I'm not sure how much longer I can keep waitressing. Do you think knowing all those languages might help me get another job?"

Melinda comes in next. She's in an office manager kind of role for a government agency. She's been there for 12 years. All through the recession and now into the economic recovery. She describes her job as being "just under the political class." Laughing, she says, "We're the people who get all the work done." Despite the currently popular bashing of government employees in Illinois and the massive cutting of life altering government funds; Melinda's job won't be cut unless the very last light is turned out in state government and the health and safety of Illinois citizens is no longer an issue.

Chances are, she will not lose her job. Still, she says, echoing a message just like Mary's, "Do you think my background in public health and emergency planning will help me get another job?"

Then came Luke. Walking into the room with a grin and an aura so friendly, that it just might have stilled the whipping winter wind outside the Library. Luke, like Mary and Melinda, did have a job. He'd had it for 10 years. A true lover of history, Luke gave tours of a well-known Chicago historical institution. He made history come alive for the kids who visited. And he loved it. But as he got more comfortable in telling his story, he began to talk about how he really wanted a job that paid a salary. He'd had some health issues and he wasn't sure whether his disability would run out. Finally Luke asked be, "Do you think the mental health issues I once had will stop me from getting a job?"

And I thought about the huge drops in unemployment splayed out across the country for so many. More people working than any time since Bill Clinton was President.

Then there was the anger bubbling up like volcanic lava from those who never, ever, ever would understand that when you hold out your hand to the vulnerable, the person you are really serving is yourself. Those folks who honestly don't know the answer to the question, "I got mine, why can't you get yours?"

And I wondered if the jobs crisis would ever be over.