Unemployment in the United States and its Repercussions in Haiti

The first two months of 2008 were catastrophic for the American employment sector which that had some hard times at the beginning of the year. After having recorded 22 thousand fired employees in January, the US Department of Labor registered 63 thousand in February. It is the most important level reached in this sector since 2003.

Coinciding with the fears of an economic recession that threatens the first world economy, this contraction in employment is even more worrisome because its effects go beyond the American border. Add to this the energy crisis and the housing problems that occurred after the collapse of the “subprime” market. This ensemble forms a harmful cocktail for global economic health confronted with widespread scarcity of food caused by a strong demand coming from emerging powers, notably China and India.

The small economies, Haiti included, are the hardest hit by this phenomenon whose effects are very perceptible even in the Florida community of the United States of America where unemployment and the high cost of life constitute the daily lot of immigrants. With the slowing down that characterizes the current American economy, any excuse is good for employers when it comes to putting an employee out on the street.

This is a sentence that seems to be more and more similar to the guillotine when one knows the following–that according to a study on the index measuring the trust of consumers, 25.1% of housekeepers judged it difficult to find work in the United States in March in.

Roro, a young Haitian immigrant in his 30s, learned this at a cost. Upon returning to Miami at the beginning of March after a fifteen-day visit to Haiti where he came to see his parents, he was fired from the company where he had worked for years. He was fired under the pretext that he had not accounted for his absence before leaving.

Three weeks after his dismissal, Roro is still without work, despite the multiple steps taken to find another opening. In the mean time, this Haiti native is experiencing great difficulty in making ends meet, paying his taxes, continuing to attend his courses and maintaining himself. “It is very difficult to find a secure job in our days. If this continues in this way, next week I will have to give up the keys of my apartment,” confided the concerned sadly.

Unemployment is so visible in the Florida region that it fills almost all conversations. During a stay of two weeks there, in the course of the month of March, I took the opportunity to visit my friend whom I had not seem for ten years. The welcome was very warm, yet all throughout our conversation, my host, embarrassed, did not stop repeating to me “It’s not the way that I wanted to celebrate our reunion. You arrived at a bad time. I lost my job last November. Since then, I have had to settle for small jobs here and there to sustain myself”.

In essence, this is how it goes.

Meanwhile, a barrel of oil, going from record to record, continues to be a fair match for American consumers. They must take more money each day from their piggy bank to pay for the same quantity of oil. From January 2007 to January 2008, the price more than doubled on the global market.

Dérice Estainfil, 46 years old, has resided in the United States since 1992. Chauffeur by profession, he has ensured for more than a decade the transport of passengers from Miami to Orlando. “Five years ago, 60 dollars was amply sufficient to fill up my mini-bus. Today my vehicle has not changed, but I now I need close to 150 dollars only to fill it up,” recounts this native of Cap-Haitien.

“Today, we need more money to have the same thing that we bought yesterday. It doesn’t matter if one were to change governments or regimes, this problem will always exist. Because it is the prophecy that is fulfilling itself,” argues Dérice Estainfil.

The high exponential of the price of gas on the American market has, for one part, influenced the increase in the cost of living. As evidence the observation of the US Department of Labor concerning American inflation in February: “Not accounting for food and energy, the monthly increase is .5 percent, the most significant increase in base core inflation since that of .9 percent registered in November 2006”.

This oil explosion has, on the other hand, pushed certain employers to reduce their personnel to cushion their energy use.

Maguy, 40 years old, mother of two children, arrived in Orlando (United States) last June from Haiti. She has already had dozens of interviews for work. Each time, the people in charge indicated to her that they would call her at an opportune moment. Days and months pass and she, like many others in her position, is still there waiting.

This situation holds true for hundreds in the U.S. Haitian community. When one understands the contribution of the North American diaspora to the equilibrium of the national economy, the employment crisis that is afflicting our big neighbor to the North is very inopportune. It contributes to making the living cost even more complex which is not a predominantly Haitian experience.

“If you see that your grocery bill is rising, you are not alone. Subsistence farmers eating rice in Ecuador, gourmets enjoying snails in France, consumers of the whole world are facing the increase of foodstuff prices,” underlined the Associated Press in a recent article that pointed out the amplitude of the increase food product prices as a global phenomenon.

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