Long-Term Unemployment Takes its Toll Skip to main content

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Long-Term Unemployment Takes its Toll

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It may come as no surprise that long-term unemployment has a greater effect on layoff victims compared with shorter spells of joblessness. What you may not know is that this impact has far-reaching implications for family, friends and feelings about oneself.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, more than four in ten (44 $) of people out of work for six months or longer said unemployment had led to "major changes" in their lives, compared with 31 percent of people jobless for less than six months. Forty-three percent of long-term unemployed said they lost contact with close friends, and 38 percent said they lost some self-respect. "Few significant differences are evident between workers who were unemployed less than three months and those who were jobless for three to five months," according to Pew. "But among those unemployed for six months or longer, experiences with emotional problems increased dramatically."

Pew’s employment data illustrates how lengthy periods of joblessness –not unusual during these tough economic times—can “strain household budgets, test personal relationships, force changes in career plans and erode self- confidence.” The analysis includes the following trends:

Reduction in Finances
Not surprisingly, more than half of people surveyed (56%) who were unemployed six months or longer say their family income has declined during the recession, compared with 42% who were jobless less than three months and 26% of adults who have not been unemployed since the recession began nearly three years ago. Overall, the long-term unemployed are also more likely to say they are in worse shape financially now than before the recession.

Frayed Relationships With Friends and Family
Think high unemployment rates only affect the people who are unemployed? In truth, almost half (46%) of the long-term unemployed say being unemployed has put an increased strain on their relationship with family, compared with 39 percent of those who were out of work for less than three months. Even friendships have been affected as 43 percent of those unemployed more than six months say they have fallen out of touch with even close friends.

Bad Feelings
Nearly four- in-ten (38%) long-term unemployed report they have lost some self-respect while out of work, compared with 29% who were jobless for shorter periods of time. The long-term unemployed also are significantly more likely to say they sought professional help for depression or other emotional issues while out of work (24% vs. 10% for those unemployed less than three months).

Career Changes
More people appear to be thinking of jobs, even ones they’ve never had, as their unemployment continues. In addition to 43 percent of the long-term unemployed say the recession will have a "big impact" on their ability to achieve their long-term career goals, more than 70 percent of long-term unemployed say they changed their careers or job fields or seriously thought about doing so.

Job Dissatisfaction
For many in this current economic environment, new jobs pay less and have worse benefits than  old ones, with 29 percent of long-term unemployed saying their new job is worse than the one they lost, compared with only 16% of re-employed workers who had been jobless for less than six months.

Pessimistic for New Work
Pew reports that “among adults who are currently unemployed, those who have been jobless for six months or longer are significantly more pessimistic than the short-term unemployed about their chances of finding a job as good as the one they lost.”

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