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.

 

Personal Testimony: John in Seattle, WA

Mar 22 2012

John in Seattle, WA writes to us:

I am an attorney with over fifteen years of experience. Until 2008, I was working as in-house counsel for a publicly traded corporation. Since that position was eliminated in the second half of 2008, I have not been an FTE anywhere, although that would have been my preference, but rather worked as a full-time, on-site consultant/contractor for one large, prominent corporation in Seattle for well over two years, without any benefits. That position was ended over a year ago. So I've been unemployed for over a year, and arguably underemployed for well over three years.

It has not been a positive experience. For most of the time, my spouse (also a professional) was not working either, and our circumstances became difficult, as we also have young children. Fortunately, my spouse recently got a full-time position with good benefits, which has reduced our stress somewhat.

This experience has shown us how things work in our country when you are not a full-time employee (or close to it) somewhere: the premiums for health insurance on a non-group basis are exorbitant and the coverage is poor. Once you get a job with benefits, you then get access to much better health coverage for a small fraction of the cost, even though you now have income with which you could actually pay for premiums. It's crazy.

News: Construction in doldrums; jobs bill on hold in Olympia

Mar 21 2012

From The Seattle Times:

The line snaked outside Local 440 in Seattle's Central District, plumes of cigarette smoke rising among the silhouettes.

The union represents laborers, including many workers in the heavy highway industry: tunnel builders, pavers, flaggers.

Of its 1,300 nonretired members, about 600 are currently unemployed, and in the dark drizzle of a recent morning, dozens waited to sign a list at the union's roll call, a chance to stay eligible for any job dispatch that might come in.

Though there are signs that the economy is slowly starting to improve, the upswing has not yet come to the local construction industry, which is still struggling after a devastating recession. In the Puget Sound region, construction suffered the largest employment losses of any industry, and since then job growth has flat-lined.

In Olympia, a bipartisan jobs bill intended to aid the industry has been delayed by the Legislature's budget battle, and a national effort that would fund more projects has been held up, hamstrung by a partisan gulf between House and Senate versions of a transportation and infrastructure bill. The U.S. Senate passed the bill Wednesday.

By 2015, the Puget Sound area can expect to get back fewer than half of the 45,600 construction jobs it lost industrywide over the course of the recession, according to projections from the Puget Sound Economic Forecaster.

Opinion: Listening to the 'hidden nation' of the unemployed

Mar 20 2012

Crosscut EditorialBy James Gregory
From CrossCut

The Great Recession has been accompanied by a great silence. We read statistics about the unemployed but don't see faces or hear voices of the jobless. This at a time when unemployment places a greater burden on families and on society than at any point since the Great Depression.

Why do we not learn their stories and see their faces in newspapers and on television? The unemployed have never been so hidden.

In the Great Depression, it took a while for unemployed workers to find their voices. People found it embarrassing and confusing to be out of work. Joblessness led to social hibernation then, as it does now.

But two to three years into the Depression the jobless were speaking out, forming organizations, seeking solutions. and demanding that politicians pay attention. In city after city, unemployed men and women became vocal and visible, reshaping elections and ultimately the American economy.

Personal Testimony: Kathleen in Federal Way, WA

Mar 19 2012

Kathleen in Federal Way, WA writes to us:

I have been unemployed since March 2009 when the company I worked 20 years for terminated me. I was able to go back to school for 5 quarters, received 2 certificates, graduated with Honors, passed my certification as a medical coder (CPC-A) and still cannot find a job because I do not have experience.

Report: Long-term Hardship in the Labor Market

Mar 12 2012

From the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR):

Overall unemployment has ticked down slightly from the peaks of the recession, but long-term unemployment remains historically high, threatening the long-term economic security of workers and the country as a whole. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research sheds light on the demographics of the millions of workers struggling with unemployment and under-employment.

 “Long-term Hardship in the Labor Market” breaks out workers considered long-term unemployed by the official BLS standard according to race and gender, education, and age. The authors also expand the conventional concept of long-term unemployment and capture further dimensions of long-term hardship including discouraged workers, workers marginally attached to the workforce, and workers who are part-time for economic reasons.

Personal Testimony: Nathan in Kent, WA

Mar 9 2012

Nathan in Kent, WA writes to us:

I was laid-off from a city job in 2011 due to budget cuts. I had been there almost 9 years. It was a professional, non-management job, and I have a 4-year college degree.

Resource: UCubed - Union of the Unemployed

Feb 28 2012

Ur Union of Unemployed, or UCubed, is an on-line community created especially for unemployed people. A project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), UCubed is built to break the isolation felt by millions of America's unemployed, bringing them together by local zip code for mutual support, jobs advocacy, and more.

The UCubed website provides the opportunity to sign-up and search for fellow unemployed in your neighborhood, and then connect with them through local groups (or "Cubes"). The UCubed site also maintains an active blog to post the latest news and analysis on the issue of unemployment. The group is harnessing social media in new and exciting ways. Nearly 75,000 people "like" UCubed on Facebook, and the group maintains a Twitter account as well.

Personal Testimony: Deborah in Pennsylvania

Feb 24 2012

Deborah in Pennsylvania writes to us:

I have been unemployed for almost a year now with no luck in finding a job. I live in the state of Pennsylvania and have all my life. I worked here for over thirty five years with the exception of three and a half months when I was transferred to Delaware. I collected unemployment the first six months from Pennsylvania and recieved $406.00 per week. Then I was forced to collect from Delaware, reducing my income to $236.00 per week.

I am about to lose my home that I have worked so hard for and is all that I have. I have tried to get help from welfare, and they say I make too much money to get any assistance. I don't know where the American Dream is, but it is not here in the USA.

Report: Unemployment Insurance And What Happens To People Who Run Out

Feb 23 2012

By Arthur Delaney
From Huffington Post

David Arrieta said he received his final $214 unemployment insurance check last week after losing his office manager job in August 2010.

"Hopefully I'll get hired," Arrieta said. "Hopefully we can rebound."

In case that doesn't happen right away, Arrieta, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife and three kids, said he cashed out his retirement account and is in the process of selling off personal possessions so his family can move into more affordable housing.

Millions of people have run out of unemployment insurance without finding work since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, and the government wants to know: What happens to them? Many politicians have worried the long-term jobless will wind up in another part of the safety net; others assume the unemployed are holding out for high-paying jobs and will take what they can get when their benefits run out. Available data show neither scenario offers a complete picture.

Opinon: Responding to the NY Times: Is the safety-net expanding?

Feb 15 2012

Recently, The New York Times published a front-page feature entitled Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It. by Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff.

The piece has drawn several thoughtful responses by economists, discussing the state of social programs and the ability of such programs to assist in times of need.

No, NYT, there’s been no expansion of government benefits, no ‘entitlement society’
By Lawrence Mishel, Economic Policy Institute

"I want to strongly object to one part of the story that seems to support the notion that we’re becoming an “entitlement society.” The story claims that there’s been a major “expansion of government benefits,” which it says “has become an issue in the presidential campaign.” ... Many of the facts presented in the story do not support that conclusion and the ones that do seem to support it are misleading." Read more.

What Expanded Safety Net?
By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario

"In general, I think Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff’s article on how the same people oppose government handouts and take government handouts is very good. But I think their framing buys into a piece of conventional wisdom that just isn’t true." Read more.

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