Article 43


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Ghosts of America’s Long-Term Unemployed


The government stops tracking jobless Americans after six months, though they face a future of sporadic, part-time work

By Jana Kasperkevic
The Guardian
March 27, 2014

America is filled with millions of ghosts: living, breathing human beings, who, for economic purposes, are completely unaccounted for and totally invisible.

A new report suggests that the long-term unemployed those who have been out of a job for six months or more - are having no effect on the labor market, either good or bad. “Their unfortunate unemployment situation exert[s] little pressure on wage growth or inflation,” REPORTS THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE.

That’s an enormous number of people without any kind of financial footprint. The number of those who have been out of work at least six months is currently 3.8 million, ACCORDING TO THE US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. Thats about one million less than last year, but still higher than is historically normal.

There’s no easy way out, either. When Brookings checked in with those who had been unemployed for more than six months, now 15 months after their initial bout of unemployment, a third weren’t working and had GIVEN UP THEIR SEARCH. Another 30% were still looking.

Only one in 10 of those out of a job for longer than six months found full-time employment, found Brookings. For another 11% of the long-term unemployed, employment was sporadic.

If the long-term unemployed are not having an impact on major economic markers, it makes it less likely that Washington will feel any urge to create new policy responses. Republicans in Congress already oppose extending unemployment benefits to those who have been out of work for a long time.

That means the long-term unemployed will find that their troubles are unlikely to go away after they find a new job which are often temporary, sporadic and part-time. In fact, only one in 10 is likely to find stable employment down the road.

“We have a huge problem of long-term unemployment. People have been out of work for at least six months, millions of them,” says Justin Wolfers, senior fellow in economics at Brookings.

A series of questions remains for economists: What happens to the long-term employed? Will they ever find a job again? Have they lost hope?

27 weeks and over

The Department of Labor measures duration of unemployment in weeks, ending with a vague category of “27 weeks and over”, as if after six months of unemployment the unemployed werenҒt worth measuring anymore. Yet not all long-term unemployed fall into a pit of despair.

Six months is a long time to go without a job. What’s more, job searching in today’s economy can be a soul-crushing process. As days pass, with resumes going out and no calls or responses coming in, job-hunters say it can be difficult to remain motivated, to keep sending out those resumes, to sound excited about a job prospect.

Often the brief respite from long-term unemployment comes in form of part-time, poverty-wage jobs. Those, too, can be sporadic, often resulting in pay that barely covers basic bills.

Who are the long-term unemployed?

At 40%, millennials are currently facing the highest long-term unemployment of all age groups. Their entrance to job market has been rocky. Many still live with their parents and are saddled with college debt. Just one in 10 describe their job as a “career”. In 2013, the underemployment rate for college graduates was 18.3%, as compared to 9.9% in 2007, according to Economic Policy Institute. Most cant afford to be picky about jobs right now. After all, many reason, their college loans aren’t going to pay themselves and a small paycheck is better than no paycheck.

There might be an upside, however, to getting that expensive education. Brookings found that those who had an associates degree or bachelor degree or higher were more likely to be employed.

Also, more likely to be employed were those who were married, according to Brookings.

“Fully 44% of the long-term unemployed were never married, while nearly 20% are either widowed, separated or divorced.”

If there ever was a motivation to find a job, having a hungry family at home was it.

Unemployed and forgotten

Well before the Brookings report described the statistics, the US Congress took steps to back away from the long-term unemployed, reasoning that unemployment benefits were an unnecessary cost to the government. In December, long-term unemployment benefits expired without being renewed. In the months since, lawmakers have unsuccessfully struggled to come up with a compromise. And while Senators Jack Reed and Dean Heller came up with a proposal that Senate voted to open up for a debate earlier today, the Republican-held House still remains an obstacle.

Earlier this week, speaker of the House John Boehner said he will only consider the bill if it comes with “provisions that would actually help the economy and help people get back to work.” He then said: “Those conditions have not been met.”


One Anonymous Woman’s story

My unemployment story is only different from any other long term unemployment story in that the names, faces, and times are different. In every other regard, my story is relatively the same. I have been out of work 45 months and 12 days. Like others, I have taken piecemeal jobs to fill in the gaps. Whatever comes along.

In 2011, after 8 months out, I took a contract job with my state. The state government shut down and my contract ended. In 2013, long after unemployment insurance expired, I was desperate for work and took an INTERNSHIP position, to both tide me over and put some recent experience on my resume. Though I have 25 years of experience, it was difficult to bite my tongue as I watched the young boss make mistakes that were so obvious to me. When that same 20 something was promoted and the position became open, I was asked to fill in in her stead until the season ended, but was not allowed to apply for the open position because I did not have enough RECENT experience. 3 degrees and 25 years of experience, is overshadowed by 1 year of recent experience. This happens so often to the long term unemployed.

Long term unemployment often leads to feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide. The victims of unemployment are often victimized multiple times. Once when they receive the news of their impending doom, then when their unemployment insurance runs out (if they were lucky enough to receive it in the first place), and again when they run out of savings, retirement benefits and the like. Victimization comes again when some lose their homes, sell their personal belongings by whichever means are available, move in with elderly relatives, children, or anyone else who may take them in. Some must couch surf, live in trailers, tents, or cars-- hopping from parking lot to parking lot. The unlucky few must move to homeless shelters. Again, the unemployed are victimized by our own government and media who falsely claim that we have dropped out of the workforce, are no longer looking for employment, have given up, and then consequently no longer count us as even being a part of the population. We have disappeared. Ignoring us makes it even more difficult to believe that we matter.

This practice makes it acceptable for the public to sneer at us and tell us we are indolent, layabouts living off the dole of the public, and that we are not looking hard enough.  What the hell kind of people are we? “Just go out and get a job already.” To make matters worse, the working public believes they have the antidote to our new found “freedom.” We can go on vacation now. Use this time to invest in our hobbies. And, wait for it… Open our own business.

The other group of wisdom distributors says we should get a McJob. “Take anything,” they say. At one time in our nations history, we were told to go out and get an education so we wouldn’t have to work a minimum wage job for the rest of your life. Now, these same people ask you “why, with your 3 degrees and science background, you are too good to take a minimum wage job and stop living off the public.” Does anyone else see the irony in this?

Now the first question people ask when they see me is, Do you have a job yet? Why not? Where have you looked? Have you tried X, Y, Z? You must be working by now! I canӒt believe you’re not working yet-- What is wrong with you?

Believe it or not, the long term unemployed have tried EVERYTHING. We have done things to our resumes that you could not possibly imagine doing unless you are living this life. Most of us could writea book about our experience job hunting. These demeaning, unsolicited questions and statements stab like a million tiny cuts every day. Many of us no longer attend social or family engagements, partly because we cannot afford it, but also because of the shame we feel and the stigma associated with being unemployed.

We can’t stand arguing the fact that there are no jobs and, once again, recite the litany of things we have done to try to find meaningful employment.

Politicians seem to be unable to count past 27 weeks. Try counting 27 months, 40 months, 50 months, and more. There are simply no jobs, despite what radio and television are telling you. It’s easier for many to look through rose colored glasses at the world than it is to see us and the reality of what has happened to this nation.

My retirement money is gone. I received a huge penalty for early withdrawal that I promptly gave to the government. So how am I on the dole? My unemployment insurance ran out over 2 years ago. I am still repaying student loans for a Masters degree that has as much value as toilet paper.

I look for work every day. The rejection letters, when employers see fit to send one, are piling up in my inbox and in a paper folder. Interviews, when I can get one, are futile as 20 and 30-somethings do not see the value in hiring people age 45 and over. Overqualified. Underqualified. These are euphemisms for: We wont hire you. You’re too old. Too this. Too that.

This is only part of my story. It’s only part of all of the unemployedҒs story. The unrest we feel is festering. We are not going to wait around for our nation to get its act together much longer. We cannot wait any longer. The time to do something was yesterday.

This crisis has far reaching effects, well into the future. The public needs to hear us. Our government officials need to acknowledge us and ACT. We need ACTION now!

Posted by Elvis on 03/28/14 •
Section Dying America
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