December 12, 2011
Anna Christopher, NPR




For the millions of Americans without jobs, the road to recovery has been steep, and littered with potholes. A national survey, out today, from NPR News and the Kaiser Family Foundation identifies trends in the personal, emotional and financial experiences of the long-term jobless and underemployed. Roughly half of those surveyed say they've borrowed money from friends or family to get by. Close to half say they've had trouble paying for housing and food. A third say they've changed their living situation to save money, including moving in with relatives and friends. A majority have gained or lost 10 pounds or more, and have trouble sleeping.

NPR is reporting the first part in a series based on the findings today on Morning Edition; complete results are at and The series, "Still No Job: Over a Year Without Enough Work," will continue throughout December across all NPR newsmagazines and at

The survey from NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation sought to better describe the experiences and views of two groups of individuals: the long-term unemployed (those who have been unemployed for a year or more and who would prefer to be working, regardless of how recently they’ve looked for a job); and the long-term underemployed (those working part-time but would prefer to be working full-time, and who have been without full-time work for a year or more).

Among the key findings:

- Many of those grappling with long-term joblessness report a negative impact on their mental and physical health. 21% say they have sought help from a medical professional for stress or other major health problems, and 9% report that they have increased their use of alcohol or drugs.

- 38% say that they believe the federal government’s efforts to cope with the financial situation have hurt them and their family. Only 12% believe the opposite to be true.

- 59% of the long-term un- and underemployed say that in the past two years, they have taken money out of savings or retirement funds to help pay bills; 51% have gone as far as selling off personal belongings. Nearly half report problems paying for housing (47%) and food (44%), and roughly a quarter report that they've had their utilities turned off.

- While 60% of the long-term un/underemployed feel they have the education and skills necessary to be competitive in the current job market, fewer than 40% are confident that they will be able to find an a job adequate enough to get by.

- 71% say Wall Street institutions and Republicans in Congress are to blame for the country's financial situation; 61% blame Democrats in Congress; and 47% place the responsibility on President Obama.

As "Still No Job" continues this month, NPR will expand on key findings: from the surprising demographic splits behind today’s unemployed, to a diminished reliance on churches and community organizations for help, to the American penchant for borrowing money. Reports will also examine the political implications of unemployment – such as what’s behind the mindset that "government hurts more than it helps" – and which party bears the brunt of public blame.

This survey is part of a series of projects about health-related issues by NPR and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Representatives of the two organizations worked together to develop the questionnaire and to analyze the results, with NPR maintaining sole editorial control over its broadcasts and online reporting relating to the survey results. The team included Joe Neel, Vickie Walton, Steve Drummond, Uri Berliner and Anne Gudenkauf from NPR; working with the Public Opinion and Survey Research Group at the Kaiser Family Foundation including Mollyann Brodie, Ph.D., Liz Hamel, Bianca DiJulio, Sarah Cho, and Theresa Boston. Details about how the survey was conducted are at