National Public Radio (NPR) and The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released the results of a study of long-term unemployment in America. The study surveyed a nationally representative, random sample of working age adults about their employment. The study included both the long-term unemployed and the long-term underemployed.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of people who have been unemployed long-term (defined as: for more than one year) have a “not too confident” to “not at all confident” outlook on being able to find a job that will let them get by. While the study was generally balanced age-wise, the majority of the long-term unemployed were also employed only briefly, two years of less, at their last job before being laid off, possibly the result of “first in, first out” personnel policies. The majority of those surveyed also reported that their last job paid less than $30,000.
When asked what they think would be helpful if provided by the government, most people said that job training, job placement, and extended health insurance coverage would be “very” or “extremely helpful.” Unemployment benefits and relocation assistance were also seen as helpful, but less so. Most of the respondents had never received, and even more were not currently receiving unemployment benefits, anyway.
Most respondents said that systemic problems such as the global economy and outsourcing are at fault for their unemployment, more so than bad luck or lack of skill on their part. Most also say that discrimination has not been a factor in their failure to find a job. However, a significant portion of those who responded said that it was a minor or even a major reason why they are still unemployed. The most common complaint regarding discrimination was age discrimination, followed by race, gender, and others.
A significant portion, though not most, of the respondents said that they had at some point in the past two years: had to borrow money from family or friends, moved in with family or friends in order to save money, postponed getting married or having a child for financial reasons, had their utilities turned off, sold personal belongings to help pay the bills, or taken money out of their savings or retirement account.
When people who have been unemployed for long periods of time eventually run out of their savings, or their family becomes unable to help them out, they become homeless. It is important to ensure that these people who are in danger of becoming homeless are prevented from becoming homeless in the first place. The key here is the same thing that will end homelessness completely: Housing First. It is important to also cover the under- and unemployed with health insurance; more than half of those surveyed here did not have any kind of coverage, including Medicaid. But safe, stable, and affordable housing should be our end goal. The long-term unemployed will have a little more breathing room if they don’t have to worry about spending a huge chunk of what little income they can muster on their housing, and those who are now homeless will be able to have a home.
You can find the full study here.