Long-Term Unemployment: 80 Percent Of People Jobless Last Summer Still Out Of Work

By Arthur Delaney

Just one in five people who were out of work last summer have found jobs since then.
Of more than a thousand unemployed people surveyed by Rutgers University researchers last August, just 21 percent had landed a job by March, a followup survey reveals. Two-thirds remained “unemployed” according to the government’s definition — the rest gave up looking for work altogether, either going to school or retiring early.

“It’s a pretty grim study,” said Cliff Zukin, one of the authors of the report at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

Here’s how this grim finding looks graphically:

Of the people who found work, only 13 percent found full-time jobs, and 61 percent said their new gig was just “something to get you by while you look for something better.”

Seventy percent have been looking for work for longer than six months, the survey found — up from 48 percent in the summer. (In March, the number of people out of work for that length of time increased by 414,000 month to 6.5 million, representing 44.1 percent of all unemployed.)

To cope, 70 percent dipped into retirement funds, 56 percent borrowed money from family or friends and 45 percent turned to credit cards. Forty-two percent skimped on medical care, 20 percent moved in with family or friends and 18 percent visited a soup kitchen.

“The cushion’s completely gone,” said Zukin. “I think we’re looking at more cutting the core… It’s a much deeper economic gash this time.”

But while the employment situation has worsened, feelings have muted. In August, the intensity of people’s distress was the salient thing. For instance, 79 percent of the unemployed described themselves as “stressed” — that number dropped to 49 percent in March. There was a similar drop in people describing themselves as depressed, anxious, helpless, angry, hopeless, hopeful or motivated.

“My guess is that it’s harder to sustain that emotion, which is based on upheaval, as it becomes normal to you,” said Zukin (who stressed that he is not a psychologist). “So they’re dealing with it better. Being unplugged for a long time makes you make your piece with it.”

Long-term unemployment is even worse for people over 50, only 12 percent of whom found jobs since August. One of the survey respondents explained a common view of jobless folks over 50: age discrimination is to blame.

“Although there is nowhere on a CV/resume that you state your age, employers can tell how many years you have worked,” the person wrote. “I have been interviewed for positions requiring experience by managers more than half my age, and they can barely contain their disdain — despite the fact that my work experience is far greater than theirs.”

Unemployment for people over 55 has surged by 331 percent over the past decade, according to the AARP. Age-discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office have been higher since the start of the current recession than in any previous two-year period.

5 thoughts on “Long-Term Unemployment: 80 Percent Of People Jobless Last Summer Still Out Of Work

  1. I would be interested in knowing how these figures break down age-wise as well. Most of the long term unemployed people that I have encountered are also over 50.

  2. It would be nice/ beneficial if we could get the perspective of SOMEONE in an HR position to talk about how older workers are viewed. Are there any studies about that fact? Who would be willing to disclose information like that without fear of a lawsuit? How vigorously does the EEOC pursue these complaints?

  3. Try being 55 and seeking career change. Not so easy by any means to start with. We are a good product and right now a real bargain. I have met with a number of those who fit in the article’s category. Many of them are quite qualified, but lack opportunity(self included). Wanting more from employees for less salary did not just happen last summer. Some of the better paying jobs have disappeared and may not return in the same form, if at all. I have caught the feeling that 2009 will not repeat itself, that there are signs of hope budding.

  4. It is very unfortunate, but age discrimination has not gone away, and it will remain in place as so does racial discrimination. The sad part of this dilema is that the older workforce is much more dedicated, reliable, trustworthy, and above all, experienced. However, most companies know that older workers are more resistant to change, usually don’t like change, and thus they don’t want to take a chance that “we” will buck the system and not adhere, or buy into, their way of doing things. Even though we all may say to ourselves and others that we will do whatever it takes and go with the flow, it is still a challenge. That is even more challenging when older people have to work for a younger, less experienced manager/supervisor. Maybe there will be a change at some point in the near future when those who continue to discriminate, or think that “we” are not the “ideal” candidate, when they see how less dedicated the younger workers are today. I feel bad for all of us, and I’m only 50. What about everyone else who is 55+? Companies are no more dedicated to anyone than the younger workers of today. Everyone is a free agent, and nobody has loyalty to anyone, period. But, all the companies want the very best employees for as cheap as they can get them, so guess what? You got it, we are too expensive, and even if we say we will take a cut in pay, they don’t want to take a chance of us being disatisfied a few months or year later. They know the young workers will be more motivated with less. Good luck everybody out there! 🙂

  5. We live in a disposable society. Honestly, loyalty, and a good work ethic have reached the Boxer stage in Animal Farm. Neither Snowball or Napoleon have space for the older ones. It is like Soylent Green which was Edward G. Robinson’s last movie. There is HOPE- as many businesses will start to realize reliability, kindness, empathy, and intelligence are worthwhile characterisitics. Also, the ability to communicate effectively without text messaging and training and teaching people how to work in a collaborative, team environment are essential for businesses to thrive.

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