Unemployed Americans are grossly misrepresented and thus are at the center of political debate. Millions of Americans will be cut off from their unemployment insurance benefits this summer with no continuum means of financial support. The national unemployment rate is currently 6.7 percent; however the long-term unemployment rate (27 weeks and longer) is over 30 percent. The general misconceptions are the long-term unemployed are minorities who are predominantly uneducated, lazy opportunists however, study show this is far from the truth.
A study conducted by the Urban Institute revealed half of long-term unemployed Americans are non-Hispanic Whites. In addition although the college educated are least likely to lose their jobs, however if separated from their employers the college educated are more likely to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed. In this weak job market more than 4 million Americans have been unemployed longer than 6 months and with the unemployment benefits only lasting 6 months how are these out of work Americans living?
The bill to extend unemployment benefits was passed in the Senate on April 7, 2014 and now sits in the House waiting for approval. Those who oppose the extension believe those who are among the long-term unemployed are so because they are not trying hard to find jobs and if an extension is passed will try even less. In the meantime, the number of available jobs pale in comparison to the number of job seekers. It must be overwhelming to be faced with the daunting reality of losing the only source of income, unemployment benefits while simultaneously having no job prospects. Unemployment has a domino effect on the community not only does it affect the jobless but the economy as well. If there is no income in the household there is no money to spend on things that keep the economy moving.
The current state of the job market is the worst it has been in 60 years it has three times more people looking for work then there are available jobs. Some politicians feel allowing an extension of UI benefits will only add to the deficit, however the longer people are unemployed the least likely they will find employment which perpetuates the stigma of the jobless. The long-term unemployed are victims of circumstance; those who had the misfortune of losing their jobs at this time are more likely to be in the pool of long-term unemployed because there are simply not enough jobs to support the seekers. The lack of empathy and compassion from both potential employers and politicians for this segment is startling.
Northeastern University conducted a survey sending out thousands of fictitious resumes’ to various job postings and found what was suspected all along. Employers were least likely to respond to applicants who were unemployed for 6 months or longer even if they were the most qualified for the position. How can one expect to get above the fray if they are punished for their misfortune? Due to these circumstances, the unemployed are not only overwhelmed but are also misrepresented.
It seems the general misconceptions are the unemployed are not trying hard enough, are comfortable with their benefits and should be happy with their 6 months of support. However, losing one’s job is an unfortunate event often times attributed to no fault of the employee. Like any “handout”, as some refer to unemployment benefits, there may be potential for someone to take advantage of the aid. However the legitimate job seekers should not be penalized for the potential fraud of a few. Unemployment benefits should reflect the times and the market if the job market is the worst it has been in 60 years that should lend credence to the necessity of UI extension. While the politicians are posturing and debating their sides the unemployed are misrepresented and expected to try harder.
Opinion By: Debra Pittman
The New York Times