What Happens When Unemployment Runs Dry?

Short term unemployment which is 6 months or less, according to Forbes, in January 2013 was 4.9% which is only 0.7% above the pre-recession rate. Long term unemployment (over 6 months) is at 3% which is three times higher than before the recession. The long term unemployed make up 38% of all workers without jobs. This troubling number of long term unemployed has not only a concerning impact on the societal safety net supporting them, but effects their own personal well-being, because the longer they are out of the daily workforce, their skills decline from not being used and the habits of work have to be relearned.

Long term unemployment is experienced at a higher rate by our young, our old, the less educated and African-American and Latino workers as was reported in The New York Times. Older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, but they are about half as likely to be rehired. Because of this, older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment during this recession recovery. Unemployment for people age 50-65 has doubled. And as their unemployment drags on longer, the re-employment of older workers declines severely. Older workers 50-61, who have been unemployed for 17 months, have only a 9% chance of finding a new job in the next 3 months. Those over 62 have only a 6% chance.

Over 4 Million Americans are considered now long term unemployed. They are not only disconnected from the work force, but may be also disconnected from the mainstream culture. If we can't get them reconnected, we are looking at devastating costs to not only them, but our society as a whole. There is a 50% increase in death rates for older male workers in the years following a job loss and they can expect to live 1.5 years less than a worker with a job. Unemployment has a weighty effect also on family members. Divorce rates increase by 18%. Children whose fathers lost a job when they were kids earn 9% less annually as adults than children whose fathers remained employed. Most adults' identity is their occupation; and taking this away is devastating to the human soul.

All of this takes its toll on the safety net provided for those out of work. Our government extends food stamps for those in need through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) helps equip workers with the skills they need to find new jobs in the modern workforce. The local nonprofits help because they are compassionate. Churches constantly are helping those in need and the local Salvation Army is there to help the underprivileged. But in today's economic world, all of this is being stretched to the limits. The latest controversy in Washington now is the issue with raising the Federal Debt Ceiling to accommodate all the needs this country has. I am sure like all of the other crisis recently in our capital; this too will go down to the last minute with cuts in federal spending in programs that help those who need it most, like the over 4 million long term unemployed.

To support this suffering segment of our population, we as a nation have to come together. The United Way, the largest nonprofit in the country, has running in 46 states a simple program where anyone can just pick up the phone and call 2-1-1 (National 2-1-1 day was just celebrated last month on Feb. 11 - 2/11) to obtain assistance from local and national social service programs as well as local and national governmental agencies. There is a wonderful site online Unemployment Lifeline that links the unemployed with resources in their area. At DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 worth of products in March to help the underprivileged; so please nominate someone in your community that deserves this help.

Unemployment takes its toll not only on those out of work but it stresses an entire community. Our government can help relieve some of that stress by professionally addressing the Federal Debt Ceiling problem, and making sure there are incentives left for everyone to contribute more to the nonprofits who help those most in need. Washington can help by expanding training programs with proven track records. The government can aid the long term unemployed by escalating entrepreneurial opportunities by increasing access to small business financing, so these business can hire more people. Our leaders can help by implementing subsidies for businesses that make the effort to hire the long term unemployed. No one in America wants to be unemployed. No one in America wants to see our fellow citizens suffer emotionally and financially. This is truly a pulling together moment.