Kathleen Parker

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2008 year-end report shows unemployment increases across the board -- all ages, races and job categories. In December, the number of people involuntarily working part-time for economic reasons reached 8 million, a rise of 3.4 million over the past 12 months.

My niece, whose persistence and hard work have produced a resume suggesting a much older person, figures she has a few weeks before she'll have to give up her studio apartment. The girl who put herself through college waiting tables -- and bought herself a Gucci watch to celebrate her first job in the Big Apple -- now asks herself: "Do I want to spend $2 on the subway or walk 30 minutes?"

It's chilly out there.

On the bright side, the wired generation is dealing with their recession-depression creatively. "Pink Slips Are The New Black" is the name of a blog created last November where visitors are invited to post their pink slips in exchange for "solidarity and support from your fellow laid-off professionals." There's a "pink slip party" video on YouTube featuring job recruiters (who wear green glowing bracelets) and job seekers (pink bracelets.)

If you gotta be broke, you might as well be cool about it. The newest fashion is "recession chic," which means last year's clothes get recycled. Ramen noodle potlucks served with Two Buck Chuck have replaced pasta and champagne dinners.

Doubtless, less fortunate, more-experienced members of the unemployed class are dry-eyed as they ponder the travails of laid-off MBAs and magazine marketers. But when that college education no longer pays off -- and the instant-gratification generation is counting change for the train -- we may be in for a longer haul than anyone cares to admit.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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