Weep for the washed-up white guy

Nancy Anderson
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As if you needed further proof that Everything Is Different in The New Economy, Especially After the Great Recession, the media have now discovered a most unusual group of hard luck cases.

Meet the latest casualties of the economic upheaval: the Beached White Males.

The cover story in the April 25 issue of Newsweek profiles several members of this privileged class of underprivileged. They are the college-educated, middle-aged men who had filled the ranks of middle and senior management at companies large and small but now find themselves among the chronically long-term unemployed and underemployed, unable to find jobs that match their career profiles.

The article cites previously unpublished Labor Department figures that show that almost 600,000 college-educated white males age 35 to 64 were unemployed through the first quarter of this year. That works out to a 5 percent unemployment rate for this group. That figure pales in comparison to much grimmer stats for other subgroups, such as the 42 percent rate for African American teens, but relative to this group, it's distressingly high. That 5 percent figure is double the normal unemployment rate for college-educated men. Moreover, the number of college-educated middle-aged men who have been out of work for a year or more is five times than it was in the last great executive washout after the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000.

Even though your blogger shares some characteristics with this group - college-educated, middle-aged, with a decent paying job up until January of 2009; only my race distinguishes me from these BWMs - even he finds it hard to work up a lot of sympathy for an admittedly well-off group that has traditionally enjoyed all of the perks and privileges American capitalism can bestow. But upon further reflection, even these men deserve our compassion. When you consider that our work constitutes perhaps the single biggest element of our self-definition, and that losing it causes tremendous psychic and fiscal stress, and often even family breakup, it must be doubly difficult to handle the strain when one is part of a class of people not used to having to deal with such stresses.

The plight of the BWM also calls forth another dubious distinction. Many of these men are members of the Baby Boom generation, which has reshaped American society at every turn on its journey through life. And now, as some of its most privileged members face a huge and maybe permanent loss of income and self-esteem, it is reshaping society again.

By Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is a veteran freelance writer, editor and public relations professional who lives in Philadelphia. Besides blogging for BusinessWorkForce.com, he has written for numerous publications and websites, would be happy to do your resume, and is himself actively seeking career opportunities on Nexxt. Check out his LinkedIn profile and read his other posts on BusinessWorkForceBlog.com.

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