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I’m not necessarily talking about the economy here, just my own life. My personal experiences of life within the past four years. In short: yes
In 2008, I was working as a software developer in New Jersey. In mid-January of 2010 I was laid off from that job. I spent every single day job hunting, there were many openings in the web design/development sector around New Jersey/New York City.
I had several interviews within my second week of unemployment that did not go anywhere. I continued to apply for jobs every day. During the first week of February, I had two interviews and was offered a position by both companies, which turned into a bidding war over salary. While that was going on, I also received two callbacks from companies in NJ but was already set on one of the offers. In the end, I went with the position I thought I would enjoy more and by February 22nd I was working again, full-time as a Web Design/Marketing Admin in Manhattan.
In my time of being laid-off during the last 4 years, I was officially unemployed for 33 days. In that time I had five interviews and when I accepted the new position I was taking on new responsibilities and increasing my salary by $5K/year.
In November of 2011, after almost two years working for the position I accepted after unemployment, I began enjoying my job less and thought I could be making more money elsewhere. Since I already had a job this time, my hunt was fairly casual. I spent my weekends applying for jobs instead of daily. I was also very picky about the position. Salary, duties, and location (within Manhattan) were my top priorities. There were many job opportunities that I did not even apply to because they were located in Midtown Manhattan or mentioned certain requirements I did not like.
I was finally offered a job during mid-February 2012. I had first interviewed with this company, my current company, in December. I interviewed with a total of three companies but became pretty set on this one. After two more in-person interviews and three phone interviews I was finally offered the position in February (3 months after the first interview). By then I had let up on job hunting since I was sure I wanted this position.
This casual, high-standards job hunt lasted three months. In that time I had three interviews and when I accepted the new position I was hired as a Web Analyst and increased my salary this time by $10K/year.
Financially I am earning $15K/year more than I was four years ago.
Everything else is difficult to compare. Four years ago I was living in the suburbs of New Jersey. Since then I moved to Manhattan then Brooklyn, in NYC. The costs of living here, in general, are considerably higher than NJ. I am spending more on food and rent but that is because I now live in a very expensive place.
As a whole, my life has improved over the past four years. Earning more money means I can go to therapy as another way to help organize my life and grow in terms of social interactions and relationships. During that period of unemployment, I finally had time to train for a race and I have ran quite a few half marathons and other races since then. I continue to have time for running, hobbies, and friends now that my current job consists of 8 hours days, instead of working 11 hours like at the last one.