Portland: The Place Where Young People are Underemployed

Comments

1
I'm sorry there aren't a lot of jobs for people with masters in 17th century French literature
2
There aren't that many jobs for people with Juris Doctorates (law degrees) these days either.
3
No one could ever call Portland a family-friendly city (and I'm not talking about entertainment options). Cheap rent? If you live communally. I don't call $600 for a 240-square foot studio to be cheap. Public transport maybe cheapish, but it's not much fun and not always convenient (but that's a given anywhere). Portland is also a city for students: Reed College, PSU, PCC, etc. Of course young people would like it. Well.

Unless you have money and your family has lived here forever, you aren't buying a house anytime soon. If you're one of the myriad hipsters, you're paying $5k/month to rent a tiny condo in the Pearl. With gas prices amongst the highest in the country, biking, being on foot or having a Trimet pass is essential. If you've got a family, forget it. You're living in Gresham or Beaverton or Vancouver, and you're not living as well as the rest of the country might think.

Unemployment is still very high, new jobs are NOT coming in (I know more people who have 'retired' early on SS because they've spent five years job hunting with no success), and more adults are moving in with their elderly parents. Young people may like the hippie/hipster vibe in certain neighborhoods, or the temperate climate, the closeness to the skiing, ocean beaches, etc, but no one likes the rising amount of crime (comes with all the unemployment and a gang-like police force that shoots first, asks questions later), the return of gangs, the homelessness problem (especially among kids), and the insanity of Portland Public Schools and their inability to keep schools open and kids in class. This alone is reason to wonder where Portland is headed. Is it all good? Peel back the shallow layers and you find some real worries.
4
I honestly don't know what the fuck people are expecting if they don't check out the job market before they go to college. Maybe I've just been lucky? I've gone from job to job for the last 14 years with no breaks longer than a month. But I work in a field that's always in demand.
5
@Simone You have a really weird perception of Portland. Hipsters don't live in the Pearl. Affluent people with downtown jobs do. You can buy a reasonably priced house in Clinton/Foster/Powell areas. That and though it's looked down on, a lot of people move out to Hillsboro when they get to the kid point. Jobs are coming but in technology startups/Intel/IBM/health care. In other words, marketable skills in software development, project management, healthcare support and other IT positions.

You are so obviously new to this place. The PPB and gang activity we have now is nothing compared to what it was in the late 80s/early 90s when Mark Kroker (WHO WENT ON TO HEAD NATO OPERATIONS) was running this place like a goddamn fascist state and hearing about white supremacy crime was normal.

I honestly do not know what kinds of jobs people are looking for that they can't find them because I'm so detached from those markets. Even people you'd consider creatives are employed full time. Here's the thing though. I don't have the profession/job of my ~dreams~. I have a job I do for money so I can do things I like to do.
6
Simone has very obviously never been to the east side.
7
tcraighenry, Kroeker came to Portland from Los Angles in 1999 and left in 2003...but holy hell I didn't know he has been running NATO operations ever since. Good god, that's frightening!
8
And has a very weird view of hipsters
9
@Spindles oh shit, you're right! The May Day protest of what 2000/2001? That was just a bunch of vegans outside Powell's? BUT FULL RIOT GEAR COPS. That was fucking insane.
10
Here's the other thing, when I was a kid my parents moved to where jobs were. And that was pretty common. Lifestyle politics didn't matter as much as actually supporting a family.
11
tcraighenry, I'm sorry your parents were wage slaves, but I'm glad your children have another option. I'm "underemployed" and very happy about it. I am really busy, just not busy making money. I don't care about that stuff at all. My family and I have what we need and that does not entail a mortgage, gasoline, or cable TV. Our priorities are food, clothing, shelter, love, and the time and energy to help see how others can be as happy as we are.
12
Does it really count as underemployed if you are working as much as you want? How about a poll - how much do you work (in hrs) and how much would you like to work assuming the same pay rate (cause wouldn't we all like to work half the hours for the same $$$).

Maybe just maybe Portland is attracting young people that don't see the "rat race" as desirable? Maybe if we all worked 24-32 hr/wk doing something we believed to be valuable for a fair and adequate wage, we'd all be happier?

Cause lord knows money can't buy happiness, and once we have "enough," more doesn't provide any more :)s.

And the proximity to the beach, mountains, and other good things in between, i.e. the "quality of life," mean that we can entertain ourselves with little more than a car ride with our friends to somewhere beautiful.

This is a sucky equation if you care about GDP, but GDH might be a better measure anyway.
13
@CONTENTWORKER GOOD JOB ON BARELY FULFILLING MASLOW'S HIERARCHY OF NEED. YOU MUST BE REALLY PROUD OF YOUR UNPRODUCTIVE SELF. I FEEL SORRY FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE SUCH A LAZY PRIMARY ROLE MODEL.
14
You sound defensive, Mirk.
15
The under employment is bullshit. You can still work two jobs in this city. The fact is, most young folks don't try.

You can easily float by on food stamps and $500 a month in rent, with your only real expenses being beer and weed money.
16
tcraighenry - I work in one of the tech areas you've cited above and for a good number of years, but jeezus, I'd much rather live in a city with fellow 17th century French lit majors than a bunch of other personality-devoid worker drones that I deal with daily commuting out to the 'burbs. Are these denizens the kind of workers in *your* ideal city? If so, move to Dallas. I picked the NW because I grew up in a hell-hole know as the Southeastern United States, and let me tell you - it fucking sucks balls down there compared to here... So here's hoping the lit majors and other young-ish folks that move here start small businesses or create alternate economic models and thrive in a livable wage city, rather than us chasing sterile cookie-cutter business friendly policies that they seem to like so much down in the Southland.
17
Whatever happened to St Johns Rules? I can't help thinking this is somehow the fault of the gays, but I can't quite put my finger on how...
18
When I went to grad school starting in the late 90s, there were going to be "tons of librarians retiring in a few years." Then the fed slashed funding for libraries, libraries cut hours and locations (and continue to do so) and deskilled a lot of their staff (hired non-librarians to do more and more).

Now I'm doing the same job my mother did some years ago with her high school diploma and a bit of software training/job market reentry courses.
19
p.s. I've also temped in law offices, and seen young lawyers stuck at the legal secretary level. So what Karstan says, seconded.
20
No man, it's Obummer and the libruls setting a bad example and ruining the country. Pursuit of leisure time is a luxury only for job creators. That the rest of us should want it makes us lazy and leads to socialism.

Is that an accurate representation of what Stjohnsrules would say?
21
I thought Matt Yglesias' breathless reporting of Portland's young, hip economy fixed all of this.
22
"My family and I have what we need and that does not entail a mortgage"

Then you are a giant idiot pissing money away. Please teach your children better (math).

To my young, stupid friends. Rent is buying a house for someone else. Grow up and save for a down payment.
24
@blabby - I feel defensive! I've been lucky enough to have a full time job while I've been in Portland and to not have financial demands that require earning more money (no kids, no car, no house, no debt, no health problems). But a lot of my smart, talented friends have struggled to land even reliable menial jobs. Several have moved away and found good jobs immediately. It's easy to pigeonhole underemployed young people as slackers, but that ignores the large economic forces at work against my generation ever getting ahead.
25
This is an awesome piece, and I could not be more appreciative of Sarah's recognition that a 40-hour work week isn't everyone's idea of utopia. I remember a couple of years ago when I was temporarily unemployed and living in New York City, and I felt like my friends there either 1) felt sorry for me or 2) thought I was a loser for appreciating the time off. I would explain that I'd worked full-time for a while and was more than happy to live off my (minimal) savings for a couple months and do my own little projects and remember what daylight looked like, but that sort of thinking just didn't seem to register there. Back visiting friends in Portland, though, not a single person looked askance at my unemployment-by-choice. The reaction was more along the lines of: "hell yeah, do your thing" and a high five. And -- for all the myriad things I love about New York -- this attitude is something no place does better than Portland. You wanna work full-time? Good times. You wanna work part-time and play your banjo part-time? Good times. You wanna make felt hats and raft around on your DIY paper boat all day? Hey, if that's what gets you off, good fucking times.

The problem with the way we think about calculating un(der)employment is that we work from the baseline assumption that working 40+ hours a week is everyone's ideal. It's not. Ms. Mirk points out (commendably) that "what we can't see from the data is whether people were actively choosing to work part time." That's the kicker. Instead of the baseline being "works 40 hours/week," the baseline should rather be "works as much as s/he wants to work." And we should be working to provide jobs that satisfy this latter goal. If the city is able to provide the range of jobs that the community demands, then that should be our mark of economic success.

My mother (originally from LA) and father (a Portlander) haven't worked full-time jobs in at least 30 years, and they wouldn't have it any other way. They'll probably never "retire," because that word doesn't really make sense to their situation. On the other hand, my grandfather (a Chicagoan until the war, then a prof at Reed) probably never worked less than 50 hours a week his whole working life. He retired in the classical sense in his 60s, and then did crosswords and sang barbershop and made wooden bowls until his death a couple years ago. If Portland can figure out how to provide for and embrace both these types of people -- and if it can control gentrification and promote socio-economic diversity in the inner-city -- then I think it'll be in good shape. At the very least, it's got the right attitude already.
26
And to add to the notion that the 40-hour week is an arbitrary assumption: that standard was established roughly 100 years ago, when we still had elevator attendants, for fuck's sake. Thanks to technological advancement, American productivity has exploded since then, which the dullest wits this side of a brick have written off for decades as "automation killing jobs" - instead recognizing that it's a golden opportunity for people to work less hours (thereby employing more of them) and still earn a decent living.

No thanks, of course, to capitalism's insatiable hunger for slave labor, stolen wages, and the self-perpetuating spousal-abuse-like social conditions that sustain the big lie we're all living.
27
Maybe Karstan made for a lousy attorney. Thus, no attorney job. Much like if you apply to be a cook and you can't, you know, cook.
28
As someone that was conceived, born, and raised in Oregon, I'm going to shake my fist at everyone and tell them to leave. Not really. xauen was more or less correct in pointing out that, throughout my education (K-PhD) everyone was saying, "There will be lots of jobs in this field!" Then the bottom fell out; the wealthy got tax breaks, the insane traded in their straightjackets for teabags, and now you'd be crazy to retire or leave your job. There are a lot of fields too glutted up with people desperately hoping to keep their diminished wages and hours instead of making space for people like me. So yes, I could throw thirty some years of work and training away and move to North Dakota and try to learn how to do something related to fraking, or I can keep working three jobs here and hope something opens up in one of them. If I'm going to get fucked, I'd rather get fucked by someone hot...or in this stretched analogy, somewhere temperate and good looking..
29
""hell yeah, do your thing" and a high five. "

You are going to be eating shit when you're forty. Unless mom and dad continue to fund you.
30
Maybe Portlanders are having more sex, leading to greater happiness? From the Guardian:
"In terms of happiness, sex is better than money, and having sex once a week instead of once a month is the "happiness equivalent" of an extra $50,000 a year. People with active sex lives live longer. Sex releases stress, boosts immunities, helps you sleep and is heart-healthy."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/20…
31
I write scores for movies, I make way more money than I need to survive up here. I thought it would be fun to live outside of LA in a city where people have "souls" (whatever that means). I was kind of wrong though. There is so much half assed things going on here, that I actually miss LA and NYC all the time, and am planning to get back there as soon as I can. It seems to me that the biggest draw to living in Portland is that : people here will love you for trying. So you can do a half ass job at whatever it is that you are doing, and you'll be forgiven for it, for the most part. It's safe and easy to fail here. Nothing is really that important. I thought that would be inspirational for me, but it's actually really a bummer. Having to do your best in order to survive, actually creates an incredibly vibrant environment of highly talented people that are amazing at what they do. Portland could actually use a bit of competition, but it's not really a big deal. If you want that pressure to be amazing, you will find it in LA or NYC. I'm not really mad at Portland or it's people, or anything remotely close to that, but I am kind of disappointed in the quality of things made and created here.