What Happens When Unemployment Runs Dry?

[According to Forbes], short-term unemployment—six months or less—was 4.9% [in January 2013], […] only 0.7% above the pre-recession rate. Long-term unemployment […] 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 [statistic] not only [affects] the societal safety net supporting them, but [also] their own personal well-being, because the longer they are out of the daily workforce, [the more quickly] their skills decline from [disuse].

Long-term unemployment is [seen] at a higher rate [in] young [adults], [older generations], the less-educated, and African-American and Latino workers, [according to a recent report 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. [As a result], older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment during this recession recovery. Unemployment for people ages 50 to 65 has doubled, [a]nd, as their unemployment drags on longer, the reemployment of older workers declines severely. Older workers (those ages 50 to 61) who have been unemployed for [at least] 17 months have only a 9% chance of finding a new job in the next three months; [t]hose over 62 have only a 6% chance.

[Today, more than] four million Americans are considered long-term unemployed. They are not only disconnected from the workforce but, [often] mainstream culture. If we can’t get them reconnected, we are looking at devastating costs to not only them but [to] 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 [a year-and-a-half less] than [someone] with a job. Unemployment [also] has a weighty effect on family members; [d]ivorce rates increase by 18%, [and] children whose fathers lost a job when they were kids earn 9% less annually as adults. […]

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 SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and the Workforce Investment Act, or WIA, helps equip workers with the skills they need to find jobs in [today’s] workforce. […] Churches constantly are helping those in need, and [The] Salvation Army is there to help the underprivileged, [b]ut […] all of this is being stretched to the limits. The latest controversy in Washington, [D.C.], 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 [crises] recently in our capital, this, too, will [result in] cuts in federal spending [to] programs that help those who need it most—like the […] long-term unemployed.

To support this suffering segment of our population, we […] have to come together. The United Way, the largest nonprofit in the country, has […] a simple program where anyone can just pick up the phone and call 2-1-1 […] to obtain assistance from local and national social service programs, as well as local and national governmental agencies. […]

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 addressing the federal debt ceiling and making sure there are incentives left for everyone to contribute more to the nonprofits who help those most in need. […] The government can aid the long-term unemployed by […] increasing access to small-business financing so these business[es] 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.

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