Recession's untold story
It turns out the job of dog-kennel assistant is even less glamorous than it sounds. There are bad hours (lots of weekends and holidays...
Seattle Times staff columnist
It turns out the job of dog-kennel assistant is even less glamorous than it sounds.
There are bad hours (lots of weekends and holidays). There's low-as-it-goes pay — as in minimum wage, $8.55 an hour.
But mostly there's the poop, says Guy Palumbo, owner of Roscoe's Ranch, a 24-kennel outfit north of Woodinville.
You want to be the kennel helper? You're on the hook for the poop. You'll spend part of every day scooping it up (if all digestive systems work as designed) or mopping it (when they don't).
"It's not most people's dream job," Palumbo laughs. "Usually I get high-school kids applying. Or maybe a college kid for the summer.
"I've never seen anything like this."
Two weeks ago Palumbo posted a want ad on Craigslist for a part-time dog-kennel assistant. The ad does say that working with dogs can be fun but then goes into some gory detail about the hardships — including the poop.
So far, 260 people have applied.
And they say the recession is over?
I remember a few years ago when farms, kennels and horse outfits had trouble finding any workers, other than undocumented immigrants. So Palumbo went through the résumés with me, obscuring the names. I wanted to know: Who now wants to be a dog-kennel assistant?
A laid-off graphic designer applied. So did a freelance photographer. Two out-of-work teachers sent résumés. Remarkably, so did someone in their mid-40s who had worked as a financial controller at an environmental-services company.
"There are a few people in here, such as accountants, who are so overqualified for this job," Palumbo said. "I know people just want to work but I don't think it would make much sense for me to hire them."
The rest of the applicants read like a recession roll call.
There are past customer-service reps from WaMu, AT&T, J.C. Penney and Sprint. A slew of retail clerks and cashiers, as well as out-of-work waiters. The biggest group, by far, is dozens of laborers, construction workers, landscapers and maintenance workers.
Economists say the untold story of this recession is how it has devastated people in certain job and income categories, while leaving the affluent mostly alone.
Among the lowest-income — roughly the minimum-wage workers — unemployment nationwide is at true Depression-era levels of 20 to 30 percent, says a report last month by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. It's only 3 to 4 percent for those making $100,000 or more.
Here, this state's Employment Security Department says that between February 2009 and February 2010, two-thirds of all job losses came in just three areas that make up only one-quarter of the total jobs — construction, manufacturing and the hospitality industry (mostly entertainment and restaurants).
That what this recession has wrought — mainly an even greater widening of the gap between rich and poor than we had before — isn't getting more focus from the press and political leaders is a scandal, the Northeastern University economists suggest.
"Who will tell the people?" they write at the end of their paper. "Does anybody care?"
Palumbo says he's a believer. They may say the recession's over, on paper or on the nightly news. His electronic stack of résumés says otherwise.
"It's simply amazing to me, and I still can't believe it," he said, "that from age 14 up into their 60s this many people are dying to be a minimum-wage dog-kennel assistant."
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Danny Westneat
Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to email@example.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 206-464-2086
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