from The Great Debate:

‘The only crime that I committed’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Today’s story is Christine Zika’s. Christine is a veteran and small-business owner mostly from St. Louis and the surrounding towns. She is 40 and married to an electrical engineer.

Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an expectation of the life I was going to lead. And that life included being in public relations and communications. Instead, I went into the Army National Guard. After two years in college, I went there, and I served 13 years total, having served three deployments at different times. I served in Desert Storm. I also served during Operation Joint Endeavor, which was the Bosnian conflict, and then I also went to Kosovo.

When I came home from Desert Storm, I found myself with only two years of college. Even then, without a degree they didn’t want to hire you in public relations and corporate communications, which was my dream. So the next best thing was to go into nonprofit work. They want those skills; they want everything that you have. And so I went into nonprofits because they accepted me fully, and I believed in a lot of the things that I was doing. I worked for several local nonprofits in membership services. I worked public relations and communications, so newsletters and all sorts of things.

In 2002, I got hired by a local fraternity that helps children. They’re not a 501(c)(3), so they’re not really accountable to the donors or whatnot. And it is a social, fraternal organization, so they can pretty much do what they want do to. Is it their responsibility to keep me employed? No…I saw my job dissipating for a long period of time.

Online freelance industry gaining momentum

Amid the overload of economic doom and gloom, one subset of the workforce seems to be fairing rather well: online freelancers whose services range from graphic design to business writing.

In a country where unemployment continues to hover above 9 percent, it’s no surprise that demand for these contract workers is up more than 61 percent from a year ago, according to data from Elance, the largest online marketplace for this type of work.

“This new way of working has a lot of momentum and is continuing to grow,” said Ved Sinha, VP of interactive marketing for Mountain View, California-based Elance. “Small businesses are increasingly turning to online work because it’s more flexible.

from Trading Places:

Unemployment jumps, but is the economy finding its floor?

Markets might have rallied on relief that the jobs data this morning wasn't worse than expected, but there's no getting away from the fact that an 8.5 percent unemployment rate is an ugly number. The March jobs figures showed U.S. employers slashed 663,000 jobs in March. The unemployment rate was the highest since 1983. Here is some reaction from the market:

"It's telling you we're in a deep recession and it's still going to be a while to get out of it, especially on the employment side of things. But you have to keep in mind that this is a lagging indicator, we're going to get bad employment numbers, along with the employment rate, even if the economy is starting to turn."

"The report does not contradict the growing notion that the economy is finding a bottom. Employment will not turn on a dime and certainly there's no sign of strength, but at least it's not getting worse and worse and worse."