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All the job losses over the past year or so have grown in the ranks of people who qualify as long-term unemployed. That means they've been looking for work for more than six months. Since the recession started, the number of people who fit into this category has tripled to almost four million.

NPR's Jeff Brady has the story of two of those long-term jobseekers.

JEFF BRADY: Twenty-eight-year-old Jonel Beach was living in St. Louis just over a year back and getting ready to buy her first house, but then she was laid off from her project management job at a book company. After a series of adventures, she's now couch surfing in Denver. She goes from friend's house to friend's house, bunking in a spare room here, house sitting there. She's developed an easier way to move all her clothes.

Ms. JONEL BEACH: I call it my closet on wheels.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRADY: It's a lightweight metal rack she bought on Craigslist.

Ms. BEACH: It just kind of - you grab it and you pull. And you make a lot of racket as you're pushing, so…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRADY: And you just can wheel it to the next place where you're staying?

Ms. BEACH: Yeah. Hopefully the next one's still on the first floor.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BEACH: But otherwise it's not going to be as flawless as I invented it to be.

BRADY: It's been a tough year. A couple times Beach has come close to going hungry. She remembers trying to make a Clementine mandarin orange last an entire day. While waiting for the perfect job, Beach has lowered her expectations and recently took a position in a call center dispatching people who repair automatic teller machines.

Ms. BEACH: No, it's not my dream job, and no, it doesn't pay what I need it to pay to really make all my credit card payments, and everything, and get settled, and get deposits and security deposits and last month's rents together, but it's definitely a start - and just having somewhere to be every day.

BRADY: Keeping busy is important for Rick Solomon, too. He was a city planner for 23 years, then was lured into the private sector by a developer. When the economy tanked, so did his job. He's been looking for 10 months now and has turned networking into a high art.

Mr. RICK SOLOMON: I know there is a golden needle for me out there hiding, but it's in a thousand haystacks. The network helps me feel that I have other people helping me search these haystacks. I'm not doing it all by myself.

BRADY: Despite the current sad state of the development industry, Solomon has come close to landing jobs a couple times, but, still, no dice. So he continues perusing online job boards at night and meeting with people in his field, mostly developers and other planners during the day.

Mr. SOLOMON: I don't want to be looked at as stale bread. I need to stay on top of the activities, events, changing environment that's happening right now.

BRADY: Solomon still has a couple months of unemployment benefits left. After that, he'll have some difficult decisions to make and may have to lower his job expectations.

Mr. SOLOMON: And it may be more than one job, it may be multiple part-time jobs or something that you might think are demeaning for somebody with a master's degree to take, but you have to do what you have to do to, you know, not be out on the street.

BRADY: So there are two people, two stories, multiply them by two million, and you start to get a sense of the long-term unemployment problem in the U.S.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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