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The Plight of Long Term Unemployed

Being unemployed carries a stigma. But more than that, it hurts an individual’s self-confidence and esteem. The sad thing is, the longer you stay unemployed, the harder it becomes to land a job. Research shows that people who are jobless for six months face a lot of challenges. They lose important contacts, their confidence suffers, and their skills are perceived to have eroded, true or not.

As a result, 46% of those unemployed in the United States today can be classified as “long-term unemployed”. By summer, their ranks can go up to 50%. This year, the economy has already created 982,000 jobs but this was hardly enough to give opportunities to 6.76 unemployed individuals who have been out of work for some time.

Their plight not only hurts them personally, it also drags down the entire economy. Productivity is wasted while government expenses just keep on getting higher. For example, unemployment benefits have now been lengthened to 99 weeks. The government is pressured to keep on extending this to keep people off the streets and out of poverty.

Martinez, a 40 year old salesman based in Washington, DC, revealed that he’s had over 200 interviews over a three year timeframe. Though he projects zeal and expertise, he has been unable to even land a job. According to him, there are days when “you feel motivated…then there are other days, you really lose the faith and think, ‘I’m never going to get another job. Ever.” And he is not alone.

The problem may be worse for individuals who have a high mortgage and high levels of personal debt. All their years of labor can come to naught if they are eventually forced to sell their properties just to live properly. The sad thing is, these individuals also have most to offer to the economy in terms of their skills, educational attainment, and experience.

The recession during last few years is usually compared to the last severe recession in 1981-1982. But there are fundamental differences between the two. This time, the job cuts went deep and it was over a prolonged period. Personal motivation and getting out of your comfort zone is the key for some. As Martinez says though, the road he’s had to trek on is “emotionally draining.” There are no easy solutions so it is important to keep your options open to other opportunities.

Health Costs of Debt

Everyone has experienced one form of financial problem or another. But if there’s one thing that stands out, it is debt. Whether for personal or professional reason, debt is usually inevitable. The problem comes with repaying the loan with interest within a reasonable amount of time. According to a 2009 AP/AOL study, Americans are deeply stressed because of the amount of debt burden they carry. Their stress level has significantly increased from four years ago.

As if financial troubles isn’t enough, stress levels that results from debt is also known to cause health problems such as anxiety, heart problems, ulcer, back pain, headaches, and muscle tension. The health costs due to stress are oven overlooked but it should be given further attention. For example, studies show that people with moderately high to high debt stress-related problems are prone to the following:

  • 7 times likelier to experience severe anxiety
  • 13 times likelier to lose sleep at night
  • 4 times likelier to have digestive problems including ulcer
  • 2 times likelier to have migraines and heart problems
  • Around 7 times as likely to unload their burden to others
  • Around 6 times as likely to have depression

It seems that debt is not something you can just erase from your mind, body, and life. What lessons can be learned here? Well, it seems that while money can increase standards of living, it can also significantly lower it in important areas. Your quality of life suffers especially if you don’t know how to manage your finances properly.

Many say that money doesn’t really lead to happiness. On the other end of it, debt burden can actually cause a lot of unhappiness. Unfortunately, people don’t even realize what its effect is on their health. Surveys conducted in 2009 showed that world affairs is their second biggest concern. Health is placed last in almost all countries surveyed.

If you have a lot of debt, don’t overlook its effect on you. Identify how you cope with debt stress. If it is in a negative way, look for a healthy alternative. For example, you can relieve your frustrations at the gym, make a thorough plan about repayment, or take a part-time job to do something about your situation. Whatever the case, don’t let it get out of hand. It is important to your overall well-being.

Odd Taxes Throughout America

Everyone hates additional taxes. But as things stand right now, it seems inevitable that Americans might need to shell out more of their earnings to the government. Right now, there are all sorts of taxes that are being passed by various states. Some have targeted fur jackets while others have slapped duties on blueberries. Certain factions even want illegal drugs to be legalized because it will provide additional revenue for the government. Below are other more mundane taxes you can expect:

Expensive Haircuts – the next time you visit the barber in Nebraska and Michigan, you might need to spend more than usual. These two states want to extend sales tax into personal grooming services to improve their balance sheet. Personal grooming is considered as a “luxury item”. So while you might not look at it as such, the government thinks you can actually do it at home.

A Tax on Humor – call it silly but Maine lawmakers are proposing a 5% state tax on clowns, jugglers, petting zoos, comedians, and ventriloquists. As it stands right now, they even want to earn a bit more money from hay rides and paintball. Some people are making fun of it is serious business for people within the industry. Magicians, for example, hate the idea. They think it will have a severe impact on this niche business. The bill will go into effect in January 2011.

More Taxes on Fun – according to Representative Jim Wayne of Kentucky, “High income folks are not paying their fair share.” That may be true in some instances but observes are scratching their heads about how he’s pushing for equity. Among other things, the southern state is tax hot air balloon rides, limousine services, golf green fees, and private landscaping. They expect to raise $350 to $400 million a year from this initiative. Critics are worried that it might cripple small businesses that actually provide these services.

Levy on Pets – pet grooming services is targeted by lawmakers in Maine. But aside from this, they will also put a levy of a wide range of services including diaper services, bowling, massage, movie tickets, pest control, zoos, and beauty parlors. While this is expected to raise a substantial amount for the state, small businesses can expect to bear the brunt of the burden.

Retail Sales Up in April 2010 – Consumer Confidence Up

Consumer confidence is up. The month of April has been good for retailer signally seven consecutive months of growth. This shows a broadening of the economic recovery. Previously, only the manufacturing sector experienced some level of growth. While it only improved by an average of 0.2 percent, its mere improvement is enough to assure most investors and economists that a solid economic recovery is on its way.

Payroll has seen its biggest increase in four years. Employers are also becoming certain that sales will continue to grow. In turn, this level of confidence will improve customer spending further and employees can even expect higher wages. Electronic stores have done particularly well for the month of April especially because Apple Inc. has launched a highly popular ebook reader – the iPad.

Dean Maki of Barclays Capital based in New York said that, “Retail sales are picking up because of income growth…consumption s going to be a growing at a firm pace through the end of the year.” The economy is experiencing sustainable recovery that can improve all other sectors.

Government Rebates Do Help

The stimulus package last year, to some extent, helped propel the sales of electronics and appliance in April. For example, around two-thirds of the $300 million allotment for rebates (on energy efficient appliances) was released last month. In Florida, the state ran out of rebate funds in three days as customers trooped to the retail stores. In Illinois in Texas, the allotment ran out in a day.

Beyond government rebates though, Americans are starting to spend reason for the simple reason that the outlook is brightening. In April, the Labor Department said that 290,000 jobs were created. This is certainly a positive development for everyone concerned. The key is for the labor market to recover as quickly as possible for growth to the sustained. It will also help stabilize equity and home prices.

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