article » The "Black Tunnel" of Long Term Unemployment

The "Black Tunnel" of Long Term Unemployment

April 4, 2014
4 min read

Long term unemployment is a twofold curse. Not only does it rob a person of their livelihood; it also makes them less likely to be hired again. That should not be the case. Here's a good reminder of why.

More than one in three unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than 27 weeks, making them official members of the long term unemployed. The likelihood of finding a new job declines as your time unemployed rises, so it has proven to be a particularly intractable problem. There tends to be an unspoken perception among employers that the long term unemployed must be damaged goods. Not so. Bloomberg today reports on the findings of a study that compared the job performance of tens of thousands of call center workers:

About 14 percent of the employees in the sample reported having had no full-time job for the five years leading up to the time they applied for the position. After excluding people who had been in school for the year up to the time they applied for the job, Evolv's analysts found that the long-term unemployed still performed no worse than those without an extended jobless spell.

The long term unemployed are incredibly unlucky, and suffer from a lack of options and a spiraling sense of economic and social doom. They should be the first to be hired, not the last. They probably need the job more than anyone else.

To give this issue a human touch, we present to you a submission that we received after we published our last story on this topic earlier this year:

Reading your article completely broke me. I've been on the edge for a while; there's only so long one can be in a black tunnel before one gives up seeing a light at the end of it but reading that article was it for me. I remember the first run of tales of unemployment on Gawker. I was employed and felt terrible about the people's stories but couldn't imagine myself in their shoes. Now I'm wearing them and they're crushing me.

You see, I have been unemployed for a very long time and my unemployment benefits run out in three weeks. I've gone through every resource I have, I've budgeted my unemployment every week, cut back on every expense and I'm at the end of the line here. There's not many resources for adults without children at home. If you are the friend that everyone has always counted on it doesn't occur to them to really ask the hard questions as to how you are. I have been avoiding my friends anyway. There is only so many well intentioned platitudes one can take. Especially from people with extended and loving families- neither of which do I have.

I was without heat for two months as I deemed that an unnecessary expense even though I live in New England. I'm the person that when you walk down the street and see me you think 'she's got it together'. I even LOOK cheerful when my face is in its natural relaxed state. No one knows how desperate things have gotten. I am cumulatively at least three months behind on my rent. That's not a matter of not having paid rent in three months, that's what it adds up to over a long period of time not being able to pay it in full. Moving has not been an option, I already live in a relatively inexpensive apartment and if I could come up with first, last and deposit for a different apartment I could just pay that towards where I am now. I expect the sheriff at the door literally every single day.

I go on interviews every week and hold it together very well during them and always make it to the second or third round of interviews. After that things start falling apart, I can't be depended upon to not randomly start crying at any given time so I have begun avoiding friends. I don't have close family so avoiding them isn't an issue. All my friends (it seems) have their shit together. They all have family they can depend upon and significant others to split living expenses with. The selfish side of me has begun to resent them for that. I don't like that side of me very much but I don't like very many sides of me lately so that's ok. I spend every day that I'm not out for interviews jumping at every sound, cringing at every car driving in and realizing that whether it's today or next week is irrelevant- the day is coming, and when it does I'm prepared to make some very ugly decisions. I never thought it would get this far, I've always been able to find a job very quickly.

No one knows the depths of anyone else's despair. I've started fantasizing when I'm still awake and bawling my eyes out at 4am about being hit by a car or falling off/through a bridge and can't bother to call that nightmares- I'm LIVING a nightmare. I have never been so terrified in my life. There is no realistic way I'm getting out of this in three weeks. After that, there's nothing left. Yes all of this is rather self pitying but it feels good to get it out to someone/where that I know I won't be ruining their day. I am afraid if I told any of my friends even a bit of this they would start to avoid me.

Thanks for listening. There were other points I had wanted to touch on but I'm crying too hard.

For the full-length version of the article, please click here.