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The raw feelings of being unemployed

Study takes an honest look at what it's really like to be out of work

by Dory Devlin  |  3421 views  |  0 comments  |      Rate this now! 

Unemployment rose to 9.7 percent in August, when another 216,000 jobs disappeared. The numbers are so mind-boggling that it's hard to imagine what people who have found themselves laid off and out of work during this long recession must be going through. Even if you know someone who is looking for work, she may not tell you what she is truly feeling since we all have an innate need to put our best face forward, especially when we are looking for work.

For the past decade, the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey has been tapping into attitudes about the workplace and, more recently, about being unemployed. In a nationwide survey of 1,200 Americans who have been unemployed and looking for a job for 12 months, the center discovered some pretty raw feelings of hopelessness, worry, and sometimes, depression.

Said one unemployed person surveyed:

"I know I have talent and skill in the profession I am trained in. It is a blow to my self-esteem that

I know I have this skill and it is just so difficult to compete for work in my field. I have already

moved to another state in an attempt to find work, and it’s still a struggle."

And another:

"Being unemployed is frustrating, demeaning and, at this point, frightening. Articles in the paper

say we “baby boomers” will have to work for a few more years especially since so many of us

have lost half if not more in retirement “funds”. Now, you tell me, how can I work for a few more

years if I can’t even get a job interview?!"

Yet another:

"The lack of income and loss of health benefits hurts greatly, but losing the ability to provide for

my wife and myself is killing me emotionally."

Most--82 percent--don't think they will have a new job within the next few months. That could be why so many say they are stressed (77 percent), depressed (68 percent), and feel helpless (61 percent). Money pressures are fierce: 84 percent got no severance pay when they were laid off, while 63 percent have used savings and retirement money to make it through unemployment. Half have no health insurance. Add to this the fact that 60 percent of the unemployed lost their jobs with no advance warning, and 80 percent got two weeks notice, and the emotional impact of being laid off is suddenly very clear. "The jobless have had to

face the fact that their old jobs, incomes, and work identity are gone," said Rutgers Professor Cliff Zukin, co-author of the study. "They are our neighbors, our former colleagues, and they are living in a world of hurt.”

Do the study's findings ring true in your own life, or of experiences of friends and family members who have been or are unemployed during this recession that won't quit?

About the Author

Dory Devlin is the Work+Money editor on Yahoo! Shine. Check out Shine Work+Money here.

Read more by Dory Devlin

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