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8 Unemployed for Every Job Opening: What Are They Supposed to Do Once Their Benefits Run Out?

Is there any hope of help arriving for the "99ers"?

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“Age is another factor,” Thornton told AlterNet. “You know, people over 45 years old seem to have a more difficult time finding positions the longer they've been out of work." That claim is born out by the numbers – the average length of unemployment is 44.1 weeks for those between 55 and 64 years of age, compared with 29.2 weeks for those 20 to 24.

Many people who have been out of work for a lengthy period of time – especially those whose unemployment benefits have expired – have had to max out their credit cards to keep afloat, or have missed mortgage payments or other bills. “I can speak for myself here,” said Nicole Sandler, a talk-radio host who started the Web site HelpThe99ers.com and who has herself been “underemployed” for over a year. “I've basically lost my house. I stopped paying my mortgage and moved in with my boyfriend six months ago.” Sandler says she's found a buyer and will do a "short sale" – getting less than she paid for the property – but, she adds, “my credit is shot, and we know that potential employers can check your credit, and if you have bad credit that's another reason for employers not to hire you. And once you're in this vicious cycle, it's very hard to get out of it.”

The unemployment crisis also has an impact on those who are able find work after being laid off. In an employers' market, over half of all full-time workers laid off after three years at the same job return to the workforce with lower wages. According to the Wall Street Journal , more than a third of them lose 20 percent or more of their previous income.

What many don't understand about the grim reality of the American labor market is that its impact on workers who have faced extended unemployment can reverberate for decades – long after the economy has recovered. Columbia University labor economist Till von Wachter studied the fortunes of workers who faced sudden lay-offs during the 1981-1982 recession in the period since that time. He found that even after 15 to 20 years, those workers' wages were still 20 percent lower than comparable workers who had held onto their jobs in the early 1980s downturn.

According to the  Journal, the impact of this kind of joblessness can span generations:

Research shows that children of workers who lose jobs and go back to work at lower wages appear to suffer from lower wages, too. In a 2008 study, a group of economists tracked the wages of 60,000 father-child pairs from 1978 to 1999. Children whose fathers went through mass layoffs in the 1982 recession ended up with 9% lower earnings than similar children whose fathers didn't experience the job cuts.

Into the Chasm

Joe Carbone heads Workplace Inc., a non-profit that does research on the labor market and provides services to struggling workers in Connecticut. He told AlterNet the organization judges success “not just by people getting a job, but really getting empowered through credentials and knowledge so that they can traverse the system and make their way into the middle class.”

Carbone says that since the recession began he's seen a surge in demand for his organization's services. “What it's done is completely stressed out the capacity of our system,” he said. The stimulus package helped, but, says Carbone, “we had that funding for two years, but now that's gone. So, we've got the same numbers in terms of the people who have a need for our system, but we've gone back to the 2009 funding levels that we had before the worst of the recession.”

 
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