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With unemployment holding at a four-year low of 7.5 percent and the national economic outlook improving modestly according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market recovery is nonetheless slower than at any time since World War II, a UCLA Anderson Forecast study shows.

The question remains even as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attempts to keep closer tabs on hiring practices: How can job seekers make the most effective use of their limited time, money and resources? Ask a long-term job seeker if they feel the economy has improved and skepticism abounds. The unemployed and underemployed point to the record number of Americans who receive public assistance. They speak of the disconcerting impression that some job openings go nowhere: hiring decisions are delayed, the offer from HR that one is assured of after a promising interview fails to materialize or the right candidate remains elusive — as one can only infer when the same job opening is advertised week after week, month after month.

It doesn’t help that the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the greatest plunge in hourly wages on record.

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It’s a presidential election year and by all counts the race is close. There is no question the post-recession recovery has been anemic at best. To call it a recovery is a stretch and the threat of a double-dip recession lingers. Whether anyone can really turn this lackluster economy around is anyone’s guess. Talk of the unsustainable $16T deficits looms large but specifics on job creation remain few.

It’s not just abstract conversation for the nation’s unemployed and underemployed.

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The Price of Cheap: The Hidden Cost of E-Commerce

For years “energy independence” has been the catch-all solution promoted by politicians, talk radio hosts, newspaper columnists and others who point out that the U.S. is short on oil refining capacity. Nonetheless, petroleum production facilities are not only in the process of downsizing in response to a weak economy, but permanently so the Los Angeles Times reports in “Oil companies look at permanent refinery cutbacks” [March 11, 2010].

The oil industry, which as recently as 2007 broke so many profit records that allegations of collusion and price-gouging surfaced, is singing a different tune: Limiting supply to increase sagging profit margins is the solution, analysts say, for losses induced by everything from fuel efficient cars to retiring baby boomers who no longer commute to and from work.

And to think: Just a few years ago SUVs, with their paltry ~13 mpg, were the rage from Coast to Coast. Could it be that Cash for Clunkers, unintentionally so, was a little too effective — or are oil industry insiders selling Americans up the river when they can least afford it? Whatever the case may be, nothing says Green like fuel-efficient automobiles and the beginnings of an alternative energy infrastructure. Even so, the picture the LAT paints is far from complete. The Perfect Storm of tightening supply, increasing commodity prices, rising taxes and further job losses looms on the horizon.

Hang on to your hat! The price of life is going up.

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