MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is Day to Day. The national unemployment rate has soared to a 14-year high. Officially it's now at six-and-a-half percent.
ALEX COHEN, host:
Those higher jobless numbers mean more people are getting unemployment insurance. Here now to talk a bit more about that is Day to Day's personal finance contributor, Michelle Singletary. Hi, Michelle.
MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Hello.
COHEN: You're still gainfully employed, yes?
SINGLETARY: Yes, and thank the Lord.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COHEN: Indeed. But, as we know, plenty of companies are laying people off. So, for those of us who do still have a job, how do those layoffs of other people affect us?
SINGLETARY: You know, on a larger scale, it feeds into the lack of confidence about our economy. So that, in turn, results in companies that may want to expand actually contract, and there's some companies who can afford to hire who may not hire because they're worried about the economy. And that means that there are people right now listening to this program who are working in units and departments that are understaffed. And they become testy because they need some help.
COHEN: I certainly know nothing about what you're talking about.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COHEN: I never get testy. For those of us who do not have jobs, the less fortunate, what are some of the psychological effects to think about when you don't have a job?
SINGLETARY: Lots of people become depressed the longer they stay unemployed. There was research by an economics professor at Washington Lee University in Virginia, Arthur Goldsmith, who looked at this and found that, even though people found jobs in, say, five weeks or less, they still became depressed and had a lot of anxiety.
And a lot of times, there's a lot of self doubt because, if you're laid off, you'tr wondering, what did I do? Did I contribute to my job loss? And it just - it brings the whole person down, their household down, and it affects their ability to look for another job.
COHEN: So, Michelle, for those folks who have lost their job, what's the best practical advice? What should you do after that point?
SINGLETARY: Don't let your pride keep you from collecting unemployment insurance benefits. Often times, people don't want to seek help because they are embarrassed. This can be particularly true if you have a college degree. About 20 percent of those who are unemployed right now have a college degree, a bachelor's degree, and they don't seek help. So, you should definitely collect all the benefits that you are entitled to, and that means going down to your state unemployment insurance office, or a lot of states will allow you to do this online now.
COHEN: What if you've got an opportunity, let's say, to take on a part-time job or maybe a job that didn't pay quite what you wanted it to pay? Is it more beneficial to collect unemployment or take on some form of work?
SINGLETARY: I think, if you're going to make about what you're going to earn in your unemployment benefits, it's better to take the unemployment benefits and look for a full-time job because with that full-time job is often going to come non-salary benefits like health insurance. And so, your goal is to get into a job that's going to be full time and offer you the kind of benefits that are going to help you and your family.
Lots of times, you know, when you lose your job, you lose health insurance. You lose disability insurance. You lose a lot of the things that come along with that job. And so, take the insurance if you're eligible and then spend the time looking for a full-time position.
COHEN: Michelle Singletary is Day to Day's personal finance contributor. She also has employment writing the Color of Money column for the Washington Post. If you have a question you'd like Michelle to answer, come to npr.org/daytoday and click on contact us. Be sure to put Michelle in the subject line. Thank you, Michelle.
SINGLETARY: You're welcome.