Long-Term Unemployed Debate Their Next Move

The monthly unemployment report released Friday is expected to show the economy added jobs in November, but not fast enough to bring down the jobless rate. At the same time, Congress has yet to pass another extension of unemployment benefits. Up to two million unemployed people stand to lose that benefit by the end of the year, and they're scrambling to figure out what to do next.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

All this week, we've been listening with horror and fascination as U.S. government secrets are spilled around the world. But there is one secret the government seems to keep with regularity: The Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report today. And as usual, nobody knows exactly what that report will show.

If it follows outside forecasts, the report may show the U.S. economy is still adding jobs, though not quickly enough to change the nation's long-term unemployment problem. The report comes during the same week that Congress failed to extend unemployment benefits for people who've been out of work for more than six months.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports on how some of those people are planning to get by.

YUKI NOGUCHI: Next week, Kim Beatty celebrates her 42nd birthday. And assuming there's no extension of benefits, it also marks her last $403 benefits check.

Ms. KIM BEATTY: But it doesn't even cover my mortgage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BEATTY: So...

NOGUCHI: So Beatty is trying to find a roommate. She's buying fewer groceries. And after Congress let the latest deadline on extended benefits expire, she considered storming the Capitol from her home in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.

Ms. BEATTY: You know, I was just that frustrated. Like, you don't understand how much of, just now, an added burden you're putting on people. It's not that people don't want to work.

NOGUCHI: And Beatty herself says she's applying for every job she can find. Beatty lost her job when an au pair agency shut down a year and a half ago. She hasn't considered moving to be near family in Michigan or Florida, because the job market supposedly is better near Washington. But she says the number of job openings can be deceptive.

Ms. BEATTY: Even though the unemployment may be lower here than it is in other areas, so much of it are government jobs that are available. But they want people who already have federal government experience, but I can't get that experience until I get one of those jobs.

NOGUCHI: She says that just compounds her frustration.

Ms. BEATTY: You know, I'm trying to stay in my home. I'm trying not to be, you know, one of the thousands or millions of people that are in foreclosure.

NOGUCHI: Recent data show the jobs recovery still stands on shaky ground. The number of people filing new jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week, even though there are also other indications that businesses are starting to hire in greater numbers.

Andrew Stettner is deputy director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for working families. Although politicians are focused on cutting spending and taxes, he says not spending money on benefits will inflict harm across the economy.

Mr. ANDREW STETTNER (Deputy Director, National Employment Law Project): Cutting off extended jobless benefits right now will cut off the knees of the recovery. This is money that stores, landlords and communities are counting on.

NOGUCHI: Standard state unemployment benefits last 26 weeks. But with unemployment high, the federal government has been kicking in extra funds to help states extend their benefits. Until this week, a laid-off worker could collect up to 99 weeks of payments, depending on where they lived.

Congressional critics of long-term unemployment benefits say the country simply cannot afford to keep extending the program, unless there's a new pot of money to pay for it.

Other critics argue giving people payments creates a disincentive to look for work in earnest.

Emily Faith does not agree. The 33-year-old Rochester resident says she's had to swallow her pride. She went from working on major television shows to getting laid off from the local coffee house. This week marks her 77th week on unemployment.

Ms. EMILY FAITH: I mean, I'm trying to keep a positive attitude about it. But, you know, the realities of me not finding a job soon is that I could be homeless.

NOGUCHI: Her benefits are set to expire later this month.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.