Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

The Psychological Impact of Long-Term Unemployment

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

A story on NPR this morning, Jobless Benefits Exhausted, Still No Work (audio), does not paint a pretty picture: more and more people are still jobless after 39 weeks and their unemployment benefits are ending (26 weeks of unemployment benefits + 13 weeks extended unemployment benefits).

Unemployment Duration - 53% less than 5 weeks, 39% between 5 and 26 weeks, 8% greater than 26 weeks

Unemployment Duration - 53% less than 5 weeks, 39% between 5 and 26 weeks, 8% greater than 26 weeks

Fortunately, most people do find work long before their unemployment benefits run out: according to the Congressional Budget Office, only 8% of unemployment spells exceed 26 weeks (PDF). And many states have extended unemployment benefits beyond 39 weeks.

How the Long-Term Unemployed Can Find Work, in yesterday’s US News and World Report, touches on the negative psychological effects of long-term unemployment. Work (as much as we may sometimes complain about it!) is a tremendously important part of our lives and our identities. The US News article offers some tips on how to combat those effects.

Some of the tips for combating unemployment-related depression listed in that article are the very things that Foxsuit wants to help job hunters with. Look for new features on the site in the coming weeks to help you keep you your spirits up and your job hunt on track.

The Extended Unemployment Feedback Loop

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The Long Slog: Out of Work, Out of Hope, from today’s Wall Street Journal, discusses the growing percentage of the unemployed who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks. Obviously it is stressful to be out of work for 6 months, but as the article points out, it can make it even more difficult to find employment: employers comparing candidates with similar qualifications will most likely prefer the candidate who has been out of work the shortest time.

I suppose that makes sense: if you see a house that has been on a market a long time, you assume it is either overpriced, or there is something wrong with it.

The article focuses primarily on blue collar workers: a cable-maker, an electrician, a boatyard worker. Manufacturing jobs have moved or been eliminated completely, leaving unemployment in the vacuum. Presumably, white collar workers are feeling the same strain, although many of their skills may be more easily applied across white collar jobs. Many manufacturing sector jobs are not coming back, leaving a growing number of workers to vie for a smaller pool of jobs.

Macroeconomics defines 3 types of unemployment: cyclical, frictional, and structural. Cyclical unemployment is attributed to the ups-and-downs of the business cycle, and we’re obviously experiencing a lot of that right now. Frictional unemployment is attributed to mismatches between what job hunters want and what employers want. This may have to do with skills, wages/salaries, or even location. (Structural unemployment is similar to frictional unemployment, but is more endemic.)

As one person in the article, the boatyard worker, said, “You look for work and it all has to do with medical.” Although his initial unemployment was cyclical, his continued unemployment is frictional: he is not qualified for the jobs available in his region, and he has not broadened his job hunt beyond his region. He says he can’t see himself going back to school for 4 years at 59 [although I am taking a class on statistical analysis right now, and one of my classmates has him beat by 3 years]. He may not realize that there are, depending on his qualifications, accelerated nursing programs that can be completed in a single year.

Relocation can be hard, particularly if you own a home or want to stay close to your family and friends (and who wouldn’t?). Training and education, on the other hand, is far easier by comparison. Sure, it may not be easy to step into a classroom after a 40 year hiatus, but spending some time to get a certification or degree is a better way to explain a gap in your resume than, “I was waiting for my old job to come back.”

Other ideas to fill the employment gap in a resume:

  • Volunteer (preferably in a position that uses your job skills)
  • Take consulting/freelance jobs

If nothing else, it will show potential employers that you are keeping your skills honed and that you have no lack of work ethic.

Lost Job? Don’t Panic!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

When faced with unemployment–or continued unemployment–it’s easy to panic. Panic can lead you to apply for jobs that really aren’t right for you. Two anecdotes:

Aiming Low (and Missing)

I have only interviewed for one job that I was not offered. In 1998, after a month of unemployment and faced with dwindling savings, I applied to work at Espresso Royale, a coffee shop in Ann Arbor, Mich. I had been previously employed as a team leader (e.g. a line manager) for a technical support company that is listed on NASDAQ.

The manager who interviewed me rightly identified that I was not going to be happy working at a coffee shop for very long, and that my application there was an act of desperation. They don’t want to train someone who is only going to stick around for a month until a better offer comes along.

Indeed, a month later I got an offer from a rising dot-com (and one that is still going strong).

Holding Out Against the Odds

About 5 years ago, one of my friends had been unemployed for at least 6 months. It was a frustrating time for him. One day he revealed that he had an offer for a contract job. The pay was more than I was making at the time, but as he pointed out, the job was only for a year or two, and did not include a benefits package. “I think I’m going to hold out,” he told me, “for a job with a base salary at least $10,000 higher than that, with a decent benefits package.”

At the time, I thought he was crazy. 6 months out of work, he gets an offer with decent pay, and he’s rejecting it?!

A couple months later, though, he did get an offer with higher pay and a benefits package. Although it required relocating, he accepted.

The lesson? Aim high, don’t settle, and most of all–don’t panic.