Mike's career as a draftsman started falling apart in 2008. When the financial crisis hit, he spent a year working as a contractor, and then a few weeks working for a friend before a starting an endless stretch of unemployment. Now his wife is working two full-time jobs to pick up the slack.
"We see her very little, and usually when we do see her she's dead tired and doesn't want to do anything," Mike says in a video posted online May 9. "It's miserable."
Mike says one of his two daughters wants to go to college next year. "I don't know how she's going to pay for it. The finger gets pointed at me," he says, his eyes weary. "I seem to have lost my edge. I can't get an interview anymore."
"My wife doesn't love me anymore," he says, smiling instead of crying. "My kids don't love me."
His video lives on Over 50 And Out Of Work, a site created by New York-based journalist Susan Sipprelle to document the jobs crisis among older workers. Sipprelle, 52, is looking out for people like herself.
"I could see the impact this is having on my peers," she says. "So many of our interviewees thought they were set for life."
The site has videos of jobless Americans from all over the country. Sipprelle and her team this week embarked on their final trip -- to Louisville, Ky. -- where they will film their 100th interview.
Workers older than 55 are much less likely to lose their jobs, but once they do, they're much more likely to be unemployed for a long time. The average jobless spell for older workers now lasts longer than a year. The anxiety and despair among people stuck in this situation has been well-documented in studies, particularly by Carl Van Horn at Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. (Van Horn is one of several experts Sipprelle has interviewed for the project.)
But statistics and expert witnesses can't convey the poignancy that Sipprelle's jobless interview subjects can.
Elizabeth Zima, of Calistoga, Calif., for one, has been out of work since she lost her job as a health care writer in 2008 and has already blown through her retirement savings.
"I can't pay my taxes," says Zima, 57, suppressing sobs in a March 15 video. "I can't pay my taxes. I've always filed. I always have felt it's been my responsibility. I can't pay 'em. Even an extension -- I'm not gonna be able to pay 'em."
Sipprelle says two or three of the people she's profiled have since found work with pay comparable to what they'd earned before being laid off. A few others have taken jobs with much worse pay, while some have struck out as entrepreneurs. "We have a handful in really, really bad shape," she says.
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