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Are We Forgetting Our Unemployed?

In the best of times, it’s tough being unemployed. Today, unemployment is long, discouraging, and financially devastating experience for many Americans. As I read the newspaper and hear talking heads discuss the jobs market and the economy at large, though, I am struck by the fact that most of the conversations glides over the 9.1% unemployment rate; the plight of the individual seem to be missing from the national discourse.

It’s as if… most of the us has moved on. The ones who kept their jobs or found jobs after the 2008-2009 period are busy working, and the ones who didn’t watched the number of their remaining unemployment checks dwindle. To add insult to injury, unemployed folks are not considered an influential voting bloc, so politicians don’t have an incentive to even count the them as an important constituent.

Are we forgetting the unemployed Americans? The unemployment rate dropped to a still sky-high 9.1%, partly because many folks have simply given up hope of finding a job in a dismal market. In fact, the percentage of Americans who are working is the lowest in almost 30 years – only 45% of people over 16 are had a job in 2010. The 99 weeks of unemployment insurance has run out for a lot of people, leaving them to get burn through their savings, cash out retirement funds, move in with family members, or taking early Social Security payments.

Now, unlike in 2008 and 2009, the massive layouts seem to have ended (knock on wood). I remember that several of my friends were laid off in those years. One girl I knew was out of a job for 18 months. I remember the frustration and self-doubt after I went on interview after interview without an offer. Fortunately, though, my friends and I found jobs again.

But what about those people who didn’t find jobs? The longer you are unemployed, the more difficult it is regain employment. Many recruiters and HR managers prefer currently working or recently-employed candidates. Workers lose skills, confidence, and contacts the longer they have been out of the market. If you are older than 55, the cards are even more stacked against you.

I don’t know what the exact prescription is, but I think we need to do more to help our unemployed folks, especially the long-term unemployed.

Thoughts? Do you think the unemployed has been neglected?

  • Aleksie - Not only the unemployed but the underemployed. Many people I know have jobs but are barely enough to make ends meet, if they can make ends meet. ReplyCancel

  • shoegal0424 - It is a bit different in Canada but I think I would mostly agree. I think it is partially an out of site out of mind situation. Thinking about what is going on is to scary and hits too close to home so people ignore it. My dad works for a manufacturing company that works mainly with auto makers. There were massive layoffs a few years ago and we were very worries. Luckily he did not end up on the chopping block, but it is a scary reality for many people today. Honestly, I don't know what my parents would do if one of them lost their job. ReplyCancel

  • Desi - I agree, but that's not the case only in America, but also here in Europe. People are discouraged, specially by the fact, that everything that happens in America concerns us too. ReplyCancel

  • Revanche - It seriously bothers me that it's not at the forefront of the conversation in such a way that it can be addressed productively anymore. Not that much progress, if any, has been made, but it certainly seems to have dropped off the radar. Of course, when we are most exposed (or primary access remains) sensationalist media, that's going to be the case in the press, at least. ReplyCancel

  • Alex | Perfect Dad - So maybe they're forgotten or neglected, but what to do? Probably every unemployed person feels bad … how do we fix it? A friend of mine was a teacher and moved into a market where there was no job for her. She retooled a bit, started a small business and after a few months found a great job creating the exams for physicians. She likes it better than the teaching she was doing. Sometimes it takes drastic efforts, like moving to a different place where jobs are available, or starting a small business. ReplyCancel

  • Sam - I honestly don't know anybody who is unemployed in real life. How many people do you know WH?

    I think the economy is much stronger than it is, and the media loves telling sob stories. ReplyCancel

  • Meg - On the contrary, I feel like all I do is hear about the unemployed – politicians continually debate how and whether to extend insurance, newspapers splash constant updates about the minute changes in the unemployment rate, etc. Obama is constantly talking about jobs and getting people back to work, and new GOP candidate Perry has made jobs his tagline for the new campaign. I think it's out there about as much as it could be. And also, 9% isn't what I'd call "sky high." Ask anybody in Europe and they'd be celebrating with that kind of unemployment rate. It may be the new normal and there's not much we can do about it.ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - On the politicians' side, there might be rhetoric, but I don't see a whole lot of action. Don't forget that the 9% number is based on people who are still trying to get a job and who haven't found any job. If you add up all the discouraged workers, the folks who took early SS payments, and the ones who are underemployed or only working PT when they would love to be full-time, that figure would be a whole lot higher. ReplyCancel

  • Invest It Wisely - This is really tough for the young who are finding it hard to find a job in the first place… ReplyCancel

  • Harri @TotallyMoney - Unemployment brings with it that sickening feeling of self-doubt. As the months trudge by, you question your capabilities and happiness plummets. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle where the longer you're out of employment, the harder it is to get a job.

    In the UK about 7.8% of the population are unemployed and it's deeply concerning. As public sector job cuts continue and concerns about a double dip recession linger, I'm worried that unemployment is going to worsen. As it is, if you're unemployed living in the Welsh city of Merthyr Tydfil, you're statistically more likely to die than land a new job. ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - Productivity. Companies and the CEO's who lead them are squeezing the work of two or more from one worker. Grateful and fearful, that worker trudges on while so many languish behind. I know of a company that should hire more but if it did that the CEO would have a smaller bonus. Just one part of the big equation… ReplyCancel

  • Link Love (Powered by a walk in the rain) | fabulously fru-girl - […] Are we Forgetting our Unemployed by Well-Heeled.  It scares me that some employers are only hiring people who are either currently employed or recently unemployed. […]ReplyCancel

  • Two Degrees - RE:”Unemployment brings with it that sickening feeling of self-doubt. As the months trudge by, you question your capabilities and happiness plummets. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle where the longer you’re out of employment, the harder it is to get a job.”

    I totally agree. After being certified as an elementary teacher, I found it difficult to get my foot in the door with the school boards. Even looking out of field, it was difficult to even get an interview. Since then, I’ve been taking in administrative work the past 7 months through temp agencies. At least this way, it’s built up my confidence again and I often suggest temp work to others as a way of getting focused on what the next steps are, without feeling as doubtful about your capabilities. ReplyCancel

  • Stories of the Unemployed | Well Heeled Blog - […] people have to overcome while they are wrestling with questions of self-worth, with the feeling of being forgotten, along with the more practical problems of how to pay rent, buy food, and see a […]ReplyCancel

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