The Unemployed Will Be Thankful for a Paycheck

November 26, 2012 in From the Director, Homepage by Joyce Sheppard

Thanksgiving was bittersweet for millions of unemployed Americans.

These men and women enjoyed a big meal surrounded by loved ones, of course. But they didn’t need or even want the day off. They’ve spent weeks, months, or years without a job. They’re desperate to get back to work and contribute to the economy.

While very grateful for what they have, they don’t want a holiday — they want a paycheck.

The makeup of the unemployed might surprise you.

Over half of recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed. Advanced education is no longer a guarantee of a steady salary.

Plus, an increasing number of older Americans are joining up the ranks of the unemployed. New evidence is emerging that seniors have a particularly tough time landing a job. The older jobless are often the victims of discrimination. Employers — often, wrongly — assume they can’t contribute the way a younger applicant can.

Seniors also tend to not have the technological aptitude needed to flourish in the modern, hyper-connected global economy.  Policymakers could do something about that by improving and expanding late-career skills training programs.

Between the young and the old sit millions of Americans who have seen their jobs simply disappear. Factories have closed, businesses have downsized, corporations have outsourced countless positions.

For the old, young, and in-between, getting a job isn’t just about financial security — it’s also about their mental health. A job can provide purpose and a sense of community, while unemployment can be extremely socially isolating. Indeed, psychological research shows that extended joblessness has profoundly destructive psychological effects.

And, yet, Republicans are still dead set on making life that much harder for the jobless. They have repeatedly stood in the way of legislative efforts to extend emergency unemployment benefits past the end of the year. They’ve blocked efforts to encourage companies to bring positions back to the United States.

Led by House Speaker Boehner, the GOP has staunchly supported federal fiscal reform plans that would subsidize massive new tax cuts for the rich by slicing and dicing important social programs for the poor.

With the fiscal cliff looming, the economy might be in for another profound shock. Job growth could slow down, making it that much harder for the unemployed to find work.

Now is precisely the wrong time to start scaling back the public insurance programs that help soften the blow of unemployment. These benefits are an important stop-gap helping people avoid economic disaster when moving between jobs.

The unemployed don’t have to take the GOP beating lying down. In fact, just a few days ago, protestors gathered in Philadelphia to decry plans to halt their unemployment benefits.

The unemployed and their allies successfully funneled their frustrations on Election Day and delivered the President another four years. Now, they need to take those same energies and direct them toward efforts to pressure lawmakers to pass hard-and-fast policies aimed at boosting employment.




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