Report highlights jobless workers' stories of frustration, despair and economic uncertainty
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:Report highlights jobless workers' stories of frustration, despair and economic uncertainty
Friday, December 02, 2011, 6:30 PM Updated: Friday, December 02, 2011, 6:53 PM
By Olivera Perkins, The Plain Dealer
Long-term unemployment is like quicksand, a report released Friday concludes, focusing on the stories of jobless and underemployed Americans.
The jobless try to climb out of their predicament, but often meet age and other discrimination. Those who find work often make substantially less than they used to. They are not only financially distressed but desperate, as middle age adults exhaust savings and retirement or are forced to move in with their parents.
The report, "Hardly Working," was released by USAction, a federation of 23 liberal state-based groups. It provided a sober counterbalance to the Labor Department's upbeat jobless report, which showed the lowest unemployment nationally in more than 21/2 years, of 8.6 percent in November.
"Hardly Working" included no statistics. It was based on the stories of 89 members of the organization's online group. The stories were culled from nearly 1,200 stories of unemployed and under-employed Americans.
"What are we to make of these stories?" William McNary, USAction's president, said at a news conference. "Everyone in America should have equal opportunity to seek and find a good job regardless of their pre-existing condition.
" 'If you are black, you need not apply.' That is wrong. 'If you are Latino, you need not apply.' That is wrong. 'If you are a woman,' you need not apply. That is wrong. 'If you are a senior,' you need not apply. That is wrong. 'If currently you are unemployed, you need not apply.' That is just as wrong."
An unrelated report by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, also released Friday, confirmed that joblessness and underemployment are taking a toll on Americans.
The ongoing Heldrich national study also represents a sampling of more than 1,200 unemployed people. The study was between August 2007 and 2009. Only 7 percent said that they had "made it back" to their standard of living before losing a job. Twenty-three percent said they were "climbing back." Thirty-three percent said their station in life had been "downsized"; 21 percent were "devastated"; and 15 percent were "totally wrecked."
Despite falling unemployment overall, other statistics confirm the USAction report, said George Zeller, an economic research analyst in Cleveland.
For example, the unemployment rate for black people increased from 15.1 percent to 15.5, Zeller said.
Andrew Brouse of Cleveland sent his story to USAction. He lost his job in tech support 14 months ago, after PNC Bank took over National City Bank. He believes outsourcing has kept him from landing an IT job.
"I've seen jobs for Saudi Arabia and India," he said. "There have been a few in China and some in Brazil."
Brouse said he is not ready to move abroad, though the report includes stories of people who have.
Veronica Kalich, a Baldwin-Wallace economics professor, said moving jobs away from the United States is short-sighted.
"What is important for companies to realize as they plan to offshore or outsource their operations is that workers are also consumers," she said. "As job opportunities diminish here, so will consumer expenditures -- which ultimately hurts everybody."
Zeller and Walter Simmons, who chairs the economics and finance department at John Carroll University, said the report should have included specifics about job creation. The report included support for President Barack Obama's jobs bill and the extension of unemployment benefits, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
"There are some short-term fixes and policy reforms that may help curb the devastating impact of job loss," Simmons wrote in an email.
Some argue, Simmons said, that a reduction in real wages may be needed in some sectors where workers may have priced themselves out of jobs. Other short-term solutions include early retirement, work-sharing and regulating immigration, which could lessen competition for jobs.
"But, they are all debatable," he said.