“The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment”

May 4, 2010 10:10am

GDP’s up, the recession’s on the run and it’s party time again in America. Right?

Wrong – especially if you’re one of the millions who got hit by the train they call the Great Recession.

A disturbing new survey from Rutgers University explores the damage in stark terms. Titled “No End in Sight: The Agony of Prolonged Unemployment,” it finds that recent economic growth “has done little to reach millions of skilled workers still adrift in the most severe period of prolonged joblessness in decades.”

The details are grim. The survey finds that eight in 10 people who lost jobs in the recession have yet to find new employment. Most of those who have found work have taken pay cuts and/or lost benefits; six in 10 of them say it’s not the job they wanted, but one they took simply to make ends meet.

But it’s toughest for those still out. The share of job-seekers who’ve spent more than seven months looking for work has jumped from 48 percent last August to 70 percent today, Rutgers finds.

Consider the impacts:

- Ninety percent of the unemployed rate their financial situation negatively. Seventy percent are spending money they’d saved for retirement, more than half have borrowed from friends and nearly as many have run up credit card debt.

-Four in 10 have skipped medical care, as many have sold personal possessions to make ends meet, nearly a third are using food stamps and one in five reports using a food pantry. A fifth have had to move their home; as many are bunking with family or friends.

-In personal responses, 70 percent are under stress, 60 percent report depression, half anxiety and 40 percent helplessness and anger. One in 10 has sought professional help with the emotional fallout.

The report, from Rutgers’ John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, puts other data into perspective, including our weekly ABC News Consumer Comfort Index, which despite signs of economic growth – and somewhat less-pessimistic expectations for the future – remains near its record low in 24 years of weekly polling.

In our latest CCI results 91 percent of Americans rated the economy negatively, 76 percent called it a bad time to spend money and 56 percent rated said their own finances were hurting – all signs of the painful impacts of the broad, long-term unemployment explored in the Rutgers study out today.

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