About the Unemployed Nation Hearings

More than 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. They are so numerous that they could populate a nation, a distressed and forgotten nation, a nation whose voice remains unheard.

On March 30-31, 2012, an important two-day event convened to amplify that voice: the Unemployed Nation Hearings. The Hearings featured testimony from people whose lives have been gravely impacted by unemployment. Additional commentary was provided by scholars, community services and public officials.

Through this website, the Unemployed Nation Hearings live on. Collected here are videos and press coverage of the Hearings; written and video testimony of the unemployed; and news, analysis and resources related to unemployment.


Jane in Tacoma, WA

Jan 10 2013

Jane in Tacoma, WA writes to us:

I have been experiencing longer periods of unemployment ever since autumn 2006. I've been trying to build a career from freelance and contract work and haven't been gaining any traction. In the last three years I've worked only nine months. In a field like web content management, that is certain death, because if you are not using, let alone adding to your skill level you are actively losing it. This in effect now renders me unemployable in my field.


Brittany in Puyallup, WA

Aug 14 2012

Brittany Thovsen in Puyallup, WA writes to us:

I will be without a full time job, for 2 years, on August 1st. I am frustrated, depressed, mad at myself and politicians, and completely at a loss any more about what to do. I listened to the hearing on the 23rd, from the capitol and it made me more sad and depressed. It made me realize though that I wasn't the only one. I did take one thing to heart, I realized I had stopped fighting. I have stopped being pissed about not finding a full time job and have just become desperate to find a part time job. This isn't right!


Press: Olympia hearing reinforces importance of Unemployment Insurance ‘lifeline’

Jul 30 2012

By Teresa Mosqueda and Rebecca Johnson
From The Stand

On Monday, July 23, Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett) and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle) held a Joint Committee work session on this decade’s epidemic: unemployment.

The Washington State Labor Council shared our video of workers’ stories about searching for work and the impact being unemployed has had on their lives and their families.

University of Washington Professor Dr. James Gregory commended the committee for “breaking the Great Silence” of unemployed workers whose voices have been largely ignored by federal lawmakers and mainstream media.  Click here and here to see and hear additional video testimony from unemployed workers in Washington discussing how important the Unemployment Insurance safety net is to our families and our economy.

The workers who came to the hearing spoke for so many who could not be there: Unemployment Insurance is a true lifeline. Unemployment benefits go right back into local communities. Families rely on this UI for groceries, rent, transportation — essentials that literally keep people alive while searching for work. And in their voices, we heard the psychological and emotional toll of struggling to keep their families together. As one worker said, “Love goes out the window when you can’t put food on your family’s table.”

Hearings on unemployment to continue in state capitol

Jul 16 2012

On Monday, July 23 a hearing on unemployment will take place in Olympia, WA, a joint work session of the Washington State Legislature's Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee and the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee. The hearing will take place at 10:00am in House Hearing Room A of the John L. O'Brien Building.

The hearing follows from Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles's participation in the March 30th Unemployed Nation event. The session will address questions such as: Who are the unemployed and what are its consequences? How does it affect college graduates and young adults? And where do we go from here?

Among the speakers will be unemployed people sharing their stories. Also testifying will be University of Washington professors James Gregory, Charles Hirschman, and Marcia Meyers, who were participants in the March Unemployed Nation Hearings.

For a full agenda, visit the Washington State House Committee on Labor & Workforce Development website.

Hearings to Air on UWTV

Jun 29 2012

The first day of the Unemployed Hearings, held at the University of Washington on March 30, 2012, have been edited into an hour-long program that will air regularly on UWTV (Channel 27 in the Puget Sound Region). The first three air dates scheduled:

  • Thursday, July 12, 4:00pm
  • Friday, July 13, 12:00am (midnight)
  • Friday, July 13, 1pm

The edited program is also available to watch on the UWTV website.

Opinion: The Human Disaster of Unemployment

May 14 2012

By Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett
From The New York Times

The American economy is experiencing a crisis in long-term unemployment that has enormous human and economic costs.

In 2007, before the Great Recession, people who were looking for work for more than six months — the definition of long-term unemployment — accounted for just 0.8 percent of the labor force. The recession has radically changed this picture. In 2010, the long-term unemployed accounted for 4.2 percent of the work force. That figure would be 50 percent higher if we added the people who gave up looking for work.

Long-term unemployment is experienced disproportionately by the young, the old, the less educated, and African-American and Latino workers.

Cynthia in Snohomish, WA

May 8 2012

Cynthia in Snohomish, WA writes to us: 

I lost my job last year on March 22, 2011. I still dont have a full-time job. I am trying and have had no success in getting a job. I am in the healthcare industry, but I am also 55 and I believe that is my issue. I do medical reception, patient registration and can do most any job in the financial counseling department.

Personal Testimony: Marty in Redmond, WA

Apr 18 2012

Marty in Redmond, WA writes to us:

I was an administrative assistant with over 20 years work experience. I was also a long distance operator for nine years prior to that. I was able to transfer skills and re-invent myself into secretarial work after I quit the phone company, then took computer classes, and learned Microsoft Office.

I have been unemployed since 2001, around the time Bush took office. Since I was collecting unemployment I had to look for work and I wanted badly to find a job, but at 49 I just couldn't seem to find someone interested in hiring me. I lost count of all the places where I applied, but do recall I had a handful of interviews at the most.

Personal Testimony: Linda in Rainier, WA

Apr 12 2012

Linda in Rainier, WA writes to us:

Being unemployed has been particularily difficult. I've been unemployed since July 25, 2011. My husband planned to retire six months ago. He has continued working, so I can have health insurance.

Finding a job is difficult. I continue to look for work. This is a very tough time for many people. I don't know what we're going to do.

We invite others to write us or submit videos with their stories. Together we will amplify the voice of the Unemployed Nation.

Personal Testimony: Piper in Seattle, WA

Apr 12 2012

Piper in Seattle, WA writes to us:

I have been unemployed since June 2009. I collected two years of unemployment benefits, which helped because my husband was also unemployed for a large portion of 2009. We are both licensed attorneys. My husband is employed, thankfully, but we are living paycheck to paycheck. We have a small child.

During unemployment I sent hundreds of resumes and applied for hundreds of jobs - I rarely got a response. One organization was helpful and gave me feedback as to why I was not selected for a position: I was overqualified. The woman told me that when an attorney applies for a non-legal position people are skeptical and think the applicant is going to leave the position as soon as something "better" or better paying comes along. After that I tailored my cover letters assuring potential employers that I was not looking for legal work and that pay was not an issue (yes, I would have worked for $15 an hour); still, no replies.



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