I hope the long-term unemployed are a friendly bunch. Because I’m about to join you guys and gals.
I’ve learned that 27 weeks is the benchmark currently being used to separate the sheep from the goats — the “oops, I just got laid off, haha” from the “long-term unemployed.” Well, by that definition, y’all can watch me fall off our very own fiscal cliff and right into the arms of the long-termers later this month. I wonder whether this event will come with a pratfall sufficiently humorous to post on YouTube.
Is there an appropriate drink to toast the receipt of the last unemployment check? It looks as if I’m going to need a double, at least if I am to believe the latest report from the Brookings Institution, one of our nation’s premier think tanks. Their findings included the following:
- The ranks of the long-term unemployed swelled by 203,000 in the month of February alone.
- There are now 3.8 million long-term unemployed Americans.
- Even if you live in a low-unemployment state, the likelihood of landing a full-time job after being out of work for 27 weeks is extremely small.
- Only 11% of those who are long-term unemployed in any given month will have found full-time work one year later.
Well, these are rather depressing statistics, folks. To make matters worse, it seems that I fall into several categories of the hopeless. More than half the long-term unemployed are white, 55% of us are men and more than 30% of us are age 50 or older. They’re talking about me!
That thud you just heard was not me falling on the floor; it was the sound of my employment standards and expectations going ker-plop! Suddenly, the prospect of taking a job at the same pay I was earning 25 years ago doesn’t seem so horrible. Neither does working as a clerk about two or three levels below my usual management position. Neither does going back to working the night shift (including one weekend day) in a call center.
Indeed, these statistics have provided me with an entirely new outlook on what it means to receive a paycheck every two weeks. When I see someone griping on her blog about her boring job dealing with — ewww — the public, I urge her to quit so that I can apply for the vacancy. I wish I were kidding.
And yet, I am blessed. I have it far better than most. We were able to move in with family when I was laid off, which went a long way to cut down on expenses. Too many don’t have this option.
Stories about what happens when unemployment checks stop have been plastered all over the internet. There are the ones about losing your car, losing your home, losing your health. There are the ones about selling household possessions on Craigslist, from wedding rings to grandma’s china to the living room couch. There are the ones about being labeled “overqualified” as a euphemism for “you’re too old.” And there are the ones that bear out the Brookings Institution’s findings that unemployment creates a vicious cycle: The longer you are out of work, the more your skills atrophy and your contacts attenuate; employers then refuse to hire to the long-term unemployed, knowing that they’ve lost their skills and their contacts and that they are discouraged and dispirited.
But I don’t think Congress is paying attention to any of these stories. Perhaps they’re more concerned about the website glitches that have caused many to miss the deadline for signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps they’re too busy contemplating the start of the professional baseball season. Or perhaps the real issue is that our elected representatives are just too jaded. They’ve already heard it all and don’t want to hear any more.
Debate on the unemployment extension bill goes forward in the Senate this week. It’s likely to pass, they say. And yet, and yet. The media have labeled the measure as “already DOA in the House.” John Boehner and his crew of conservative Republicans are busy making excuses as to why the Senate bill can’t be implemented. There’s no way to prevent millionaires from receiving back unemployment, so no one gets any. Besides, we’re not worthy of the government’s assistance. We’re all a bunch of lazy slobs, don’t you know. After all, I only sent out my 67th job application today.
So if your car’s been repossessed, you’re being threatened with eviction and you’ve been reduced to visiting the local food bank every week, April fool!
Only this time, Congress is playing the joke on us.
Kaplan, Rebecca, “Unemployment Benefits Deal, Already DOA in House, Hits Senate Floor,” CBS News (March 31, 2014).
López, Ricardo, “Only 11% of the Long-Term Unemployed Find Work Again a Year Later,” Los Angeles Times (Business section, Money & Co., March 20, 2014).
Paletta, Damian, “Unemployed Workers Stage Craigslist Fire Sale,” Wall Street Journal (Washington Wire, March 3, 2014).
Perez, Andrew, “John Boehner Dismisses Unemployment Extension, Again,” huffingtonpost.com (March 26, 2014).