Tag Archives: unemployment

Ode to the Chronically Unemployed

I just read this headline at one of the progressive news outlets.

“Jobless claims continue to drop.”

Sounds like really good news until I read into the body of the story — “US Weekly jobless claims, ending the week of 6/25, fell 1,000 to 428,000.” If I have the math right that is a drop of 0.23%, almost a quarter of 1%. The word that comes to mind is — negligible.

There is a dirty little secret the government is trying to contain and the media seems unwilling to really go after it.

Most engineers over 50 are underemployed or suffering from long term unemployment with no hopes on the horizon of finding full-time employment in their respective fields. This fact is hidden by a reporting system that fails to count ANY of the underemployed or the long term unemployed — the 99ers who have exhausted their unemployment assistance and have fallen off the accounting systems. Hard data on professional workers who are underemployed may very well be impossible to gather.

So the question is, this week as jobless claims fell 0.23%, how many people ran out of benefits with no hope of finding a job in the near future. The American dream has become the American nightmare.  Jobless claims may have fallen by 1,000 but 10,000 more may have lost their unemployment bennies. What do these people do in a system that ignores their existence?

The jobs situation in American is no less of a national disaster than Hurricane Katrina or the BP Oil Spill. The difference is there was a vigilant media, day after day continuing to talk about how bad it was, putting their cameras in the face of all levels of government and demanding ideas for solutions.

I just am not seeing that level of intensity over the issue of jobs. I suppose it just isn’t politically expedient because without answers it just keeps getting uglier.

And our government is incapable and unwilling to make the hard decisions on imports, immigration, infrastructure, human resources and education, that will have to be made to even begin to solve these problems.

No Merry Christmas for the 99ers

The 99ers are those Americans unemployed long enough to exhaust their unemployment benefit (UE) of 99 weeks.  According to the US Department of Labor, at least 10% of the currently unemployed (over one million Americans) have been out of work over two years. They no longer receive any government UE benefit.  The recent 13 month benefit extension tied to the tax bill does not increase the 99 week eligibility, it only extends the period of time where federal subsidies are used to extend the benefit out to 99 weeks.

The ranks of the 99ers is increasing at an alarming rate. One week in March of 2009, 643,000 people filed for UE benefits, a surge that lasted for several weeks during that time period. (According to Labor Department data) That was 89 weeks ago. As these recipients begin to lose assistance the ripple across the already stagnant economy will be severe. People barely hanging on will be left without anything to hang on to. This loss affects basic survival needs – food, shelter, transportation. And this is money that will no longer be feeding back into the economy.

The problem is complex, but the solution is evident – Jobs!

Our country hasn’t seen this kind of hole in the job market since the Labor Department began tracking employment numbers in the early seventies. As of November, slightly more than four million people had been unemployed more than a year and in the coming months, unless companies begin opening their doors to new employees, a social disaster is imminent among the chronically unemployed. The jobs situation must improve to end the plight of the 99ers.

The future is a scary thing to look at when you don’t know what it holds. My heart goes out to anyone in that situation.



You take my life when you do take the means whereby I live. ~William Shakespeare