FORTUNE -- To catch a bloodworm, you have to wade knee-deep in Maine mudflats and dig in the muck. Now, you have to be careful handling these creatures, which have alien-looking mouths and four black teeth that sting like a bee if they find their way into your skin. It may sound like an episode of "Fear Factor," but catching bloodworms is another day at the office for some Americans, and it's surprisingly lucrative. The worms are sold for bait, and 175 or so of them will bring in roughly $50.
Bloodworm hunting is just one of the 300 dirty jobs that Mike Rowe has completed on his Discovery Channel show, "Dirty Jobs." And doing some of the grittiest and grossest jobs in America has given him a special perspective on work in the U.S.
The American economy was kept on bed rest throughout 2011. While the most recent Department of Labor jobs report posted slightly encouraging numbers for the month, 8.8 million jobs have been lost since the financial crisis began, leaving 13.3 million Americans unemployed, 43% of which haven't been working for over six months.
The disappointing numbers have made many Americans increasingly gloomy about their future prospects. Yet, "so many people I've met on 'Dirty Jobs' are completely oblivious to those kinds of statistics," Rowe says.
It's not that these people are clueless. On the contrary, they see opportunity in jobs that many would consider grunt work, and they're fine with filling those spots. The rest of the country could learn something from this attitude, Rowe says.
"Are we really just going to accept the idea of a jobless recovery? Or are we going to have to fundamentally rethink the definition of a good job." More
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