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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.

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