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.

 

Resource: The Job Seekers' Update

Feb 14 2012

The Job Seekers' Update is a quarterly guide to free and low-cost resources for job search assistance, career development, and self-employment in the Puget Sound area.

The Update is published as a community service by the King County Reemployment Support Center, a program of the Worker Center, a division of the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council AFL-CIO.

Established in 1987 by the State of Washington “to increase the capacity of local communities to aid their unemployed and dislocated workers”, the RSC assists businesses and employees experiencing plant closures and other worker dislocation. It works with community partners to set up labor-management readjustment committees at the sites of employers as the best way to get information and services to people before they are on their last paycheck.

Report: Employment Rate For Young Adults Lowest In 60 Years

Feb 9 2012

By Alexander Eichler
From The Huffington Post:

Are you young and looking for work? You're in good company.

Just 54 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 currently have jobs, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. That's the lowest employment rate for this age group since the government began keeping track in 1948. And it's a sharp drop from the 62 percent who had jobs in 2007 -- suggesting the recession is crippling career prospects for a broad swath of young people who were still in high school or college when the downturn began.

"They had the misfortune to be born at a time that would dump them into this labor market as young people," said Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "If we stay on the track that we're on, this cohort is not going to outpace their parents."

The Pew study arrives just days after the Labor Department's monthly jobs report, which showed the national unemployment rate trending down for a fifth straight month -- a change that many took as a sign that the economy is finally beginning to right itself. Yet joblessness is still high, and financial security remains out of reach for millions more people than just a few years ago.

Young adults were largely spared the collapse in wealth that many older Americans went through when the housing market imploded. Still, in some ways they have it the worst of any demographic. Besides the historically low employment rate for people in their late-teens and early-20s -- which is, incidentally, about 15 percentage points below the general employment rate for working-age adults, according to Pew -- the recession has eroded young workers' paychecks to a far greater degree than any other age group.

Graphs: Everything We Know About the Long-Term Unemployed

Feb 7 2012

By Derek Thompson
From The Atlantic

Understanding this chart: I'm tracking the growth in unemployment by DURATION with the shortest-term unemployed in orange at the bottom, and the long-term unemployed in blue at the top. I've indexed all numbers to begin at 100 in January 2007. Takeaway 1: People unemployed for 15-26 weeks (red) have doubled. Takeaway 2: People unemployed for 27 weeks and over have quadrupled.

See that graph? Click it. Print it. Tape it to your wall, and maybe give it some lamination. This is what the tragedy of long-term unemployment looks like, with the blue line tracking the quadrupling of those unemployed six months or longer.

Video: Unemployment is this Decade's Epidemic

Jan 31 2012

By Washington State Labor Council

Thousands of people in Washington State are unemployed, yet we only hear numbers, never see faces. Here are some wonderful individuals who tell their stories, share their feels and help us understand just how it feels to face the uncertainties of not getting a regular paycheck. Watch and listen and then figure out how you can help.

Paper: No Fault of Her Own: Redressing Family Responsibilities Discrimination in the State Unemployment Compensation Systems

Jan 31 2012

By Carolyn McConnell, UW School of Law
From CCH Labor Law Journal, Vol. 62, No. 3, Fall 2011

Abstract: From the creation of UI to the present, women have received unemployment benefits at lower rates than men. In some states, men’s rate of receipt of unemployment benefits is 20 percent higher than women’s. Why is this?

One fundamental reason is that UI places structural hurdles in the way of claimants with family caregiving responsibilities. With women disproportionately assigned the work of family caregiving, this disproportionately excludes women from unemployment benefits. Yet women now make up a near-majority of the workforce and most mothers are in the paid workforce. This is one reason why the percentage of those out of work who receive unemployment compensation has fallen dramatically in recent decades, threatening UI’s ability to achieve its twin goals of protecting workers from involuntary unemployment and cushioning the economy against downturns. In the current recession (officially over but with no end in sight for millions of the un- and underemployed), this problem is urgent.

This paper focuses on how the state unemployment systems discriminate against caregivers in their definitions of good cause and availability and offers model statutory provisions to remedy this. Reforming UI would preserve its effectiveness. Yet it would also do much more, helping to reconfigure the American workplace to accommodate caregivers. This analysis of the UI system illuminates the workplace structures that systematically disadvantage caregivers and offers concrete policy suggestions for transforming them.

Access the full article on-line here.

Opinion: Unemployment Insurance Under the Knife

Jan 25 2012

By Kate Kahan and George Wentworth
From The Nation:
 
The Great Recession officially began four years ago December, and although we may be in the third year of recovery, for more than 13 million Americans without jobs it doesn’t much feel like a recovery. Even as the national unemployment rate inches down below 9 percent, the massive job hemorrhaging that began in 2008 has left a legacy of widespread suffering. Of the 8.7 million jobs lost since December 2007, fewer than 2.5 million have been recovered. With population growth factored in, we are 10.9 million jobs short of what we need to get the nation back to pre-recession levels, when the unemployment rate was
5 percent.
 
Perhaps the most striking feature of this economic catastrophe is the nation’s continuing crisis of long-term unemployment. There are 5.7 million workers who have been unemployed more than six months—an unprecedented
43 percent of all jobless workers. Even more alarming is that a third of the unemployed have been unable to find work for a year or more. The average duration of unemployment is at a record level: 40.9 weeks.

Opinion: A Proud, Angry Poor

Jan 25 2012

By Frances Fox Piven
From The Nation:
 
Occupy Wall Street has thrust the issue of extreme inequality into the spotlight. The movement has spread so quickly and alarmed politicians not because of its rather small encampments but because its message resonates. Most people know, or at least half-know, that our problem is growing inequality, and they also know that government is complicit in the financially driven capitalism that is in the driver’s seat. The slogan “We are the 99 percent” stresses our commonality and lays the basis for a movement ethic of democracy, inclusion and solidarity. This is a big and welcome step. After all, we need an ethic that goes beyond the incessant liberal (and union) talk of “the middle class.”
 
Still, the movement has to respond to the police sweeps of its encampments by becoming broader and more hard-hitting. It has to firmly include the vast number of people who have been marginalized by the rhetoric of American politics and by the realities of the American economy. In many places the homeless have joined the encampments. That is a beginning. But it’s not enough. To fully realize an ethic of inclusion, the poorest and most benighted Americans should become part of our protest movement. We need to increase their numbers at our demonstrations, and we need to undertake the protest actions that deal with their most urgent needs—including the attacks on the social safety net that hit them hardest.

Opinion: In Dr. King's America the Unemployed Deserve Simple Human Dignity

Jan 17 2012

By Rabbi Steve Gutow
From The Huffington Post:
 
As our Congress members return to Washington to resume the debate on helping the unemployed just weeks before that extension expires, I hope they find great inspiration from this week's holiday honoring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
Reverend King's legacy does not belong to just one epoch. Just as the lessons of Moses have taught the generations that followed, the teachings of Martin Luther King inspire us today as they did decades ago when he delivered his holy words. The striking monument only recently unveiled on the National Mall is lined with quotes that exhort us to be driven by justice, tireless and unwavering in pursuit of a better world. They remind us that King's calls for justice were universal, including economic justice. "I have the audacity to believe," reads one inscription, "that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits."

News: Jobless tell Murray of struggles getting by

Jan 12 2012

From The Seattle Times:

Every morning James Henry, 41, gets up and heads to the union hall, hoping for work.

The Seattle-area construction worker is looking for a job to support his wife, Tammy; buy diapers for the couple's infant daughter, Samantha; and pay his mortgage. He has one week of unemployment benefits left until he needs to apply for an extension. In the meantime, foreclosure is looming.

"I'm a responsible adult. I pay my bills, you know?" Henry told Sen. Patty Murray at a Seattle home Wednesday morning. "But when it comes to a choice between being able to pay for day care so that I can go look for a job and making my mortgage payment, I'm not paying my mortgage payment, and that's just the way it is."

When the Democratic senator asked email subscribers to contact her with stories about unemployment, Natalie Simmons, who lives with her husband on the 5500 block of Wilson Avenue South in Seward Park, invited Murray to their home.

Report: Official Estimates Underestimate Long-term Unemployment

Jan 12 2012

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

WASHINGTON - January 5 - The Great Recession pushed the share of the long-term unemployed (defined as being unemployed more than 6 months) to over 40 percent throughout 2010 and 2011.  But, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that this standard measure estimate understates the extent of long-term hardship in the U.S. labor market.

"Long-term unemployment rates have been at unprecedented levels for two years now, but the full group facing long-term hardship in the labor market is likely to be at least twice as high as the official figure," said John Schmitt, a co-author of the paper and a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report, “Down and Out: Measuring Long-term Hardship in the Labor Market,” proposes a broader definition of long-term unemployment that encompasses the underemployed and those workers experiencing long-term hardship in the labor market.

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