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.