Depression Economics: What happens to people when their unemployment insurance runs out and they still can't find a job?

Annie Lowrey, who has been covering the 99ers for Slate and the former Washington Independent, has a new article online:

"...the recession has not meant just more joblessness. It has also meant longer joblessness. The average length of a spell of unemployment now sits at 30 weeks, after hitting a high of 35 weeks in July. About 6.3 million people, 42 percent of all unemployed Americans, have been out of work for more than six months. And more than 1 million have exhausted their unemployment benefits. They're called 99ers. (The term, coined this year, refers to the maximum weeks of benefits in the states with the highest unemployment rates.) There are about 1.6 million of them, according to the Department of Labor. And they raise the question: What happens when unemployment insurance ends?

The article continues by profiling a 99er from the Boston area, a woman named Rochelle Sevier:

At first, Sevier fell victim to her experience: She was overqualified for the jobs she was applying for. "I started applying for minimum-wage jobs, but they said they wouldn't hire me, because when the economy gets better, I'd leave them." Then, she fell victim to her own joblessness: Employers just don't like to hire people who have been out of work for long, she says. "I need a job now, and I just think that these companies have to stop prejudging us [99ers]. If anything, they should be hiring us because we have experience—I mean, I've got a master's—and we'll work harder." So Sevier, like millions of others, has applied for the aid she can get: food stamps ("I'm so embarrassed. I never thought I'd have to do that") and heating-fuel assistance ("It's cold").


  1. What on earth are these people meant to do for food and shelter if they really can't find a job and have no relatives or friends for support? Live on the streets and go to soup kitchens?

    Although it can be abused, I'm glad Britain doesn't have a time limit on receiving unemployment benefits (though apparently the new government may require long-term claimants believed to be abusing the system to do work in return for benefits).

  2. What can I do? My benefits are exhausted and I moved to a new area for training in a new field. I don't know any 99ers because I don't know anyone. How do I get the media involved?

    I started babysitting at 12 and have not been without a job since then. Not until 1/23/09, when I was laid off. We are not to blame for this recession and yes, it is still a recession despite what the media might say. Blame isn't productive, but it does speak to the fact that we did not cause our plight, we are not trying to live off of "free money". We do not deserve to be put out on the streets. Great, more jobs are being created, but it takes time and millions of people can't get thousands of jobs.

    While I looked for employment in my field, I also retrained in an area to be my own boss. I have not been just sitting back enjoying the time off. In spite of retraining, I still can't get a job so I am still looking for work in my new field and old. Still I can't get a job in any field from housekeeping to customer service to clerical.

    I lost my home to foreclosure (nope unemployment does not pay a mortgage), claimed bankruptcy and am now renting. At the end of the month, I will be homeless, literally, homeless. I am SCARED TO DEATH. I have a lot of skills and experience, but I can't even get an interview (I was a human resources recruiter so it isn't my resume that needs help).

    We can get foodstamps and I am grateful, at least we can eat while we sleep under a bridge.

    We want to work, we don't all have relatives to impose on. Alot of us are educated, and experienced, but our future and this country's future will look more like an undeveloped country, if this bill does not pass. Instead of contributing to society, the millions of us on unemployment who cannot get a job immediately and cannot get anymore unemployment immediately, we will not have anyway to contribute to any economy. Laura

  3. Laura,

    Your situation is exactly what your representatives in Congress need to read.

    We can get lost in the abstract sometimes, forgetting that real people are suffering.

    I hope you read this reply: if you need help getting in touch with your members of Congress, please let me know, and I'll help however I can.

    Stay strong.

  4. that is so sad. why isn' the government stepping up? IS it really that important for the rich to get tax breaks and more money while we suffer? Seriously, what does it take. I think that all 99er's need to rally in front of the White House, Unemployment offices in their states, start campaign against "Discrimatory practices of those already employed," act, where it is okay to sue if we are turned down because of being a 99er with a long gap of unemployment due to our lay off, which is not our fault. Laura's story saddens me and I think that Laura and myself, among other 99er's need to meet up at the White house, meet our congressmen and women, mayors, governor's, etc and start a Campaign for the New Year 2011 and fight against discrimination, gov't that thinks tax breaks are relevant and will help economy, in which it will not, let's face facts. We need Tier 5-8, just to last into 2012. Let's fight this and go balls to the wall, shall we?


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