Unemployment Effects: No Job? No Friends!


Let's face it, it doesn't take a scientific study for people to know that being out of work for a long time is no picnic.

But, a new study by the Pew Research Center delves into just how bad it can be, and we're not just talking about a lack of money.

The title of the study sums it up pretty well: "The Impact of Long-term Unemployment: Lost Income, Lost Friends, and Loss of Self-respect." People who remain unemployed for more than six months see a much greater impact on their lives, with one of the biggest issues being losing your friends and your self esteem.

Unemployment at a record high

The study looked at the latest unemployment statistics from the federal government, which shows the median duration of unemployment stood at 25.5 weeks as of June 2010. That means that half of those unemployed have been looking for work for six months or longer, the largest proportion since World War II. The study's analysis of the unemployment figures shows that the hardest hit are older workers, blue collar workers, and African-American workers. But, all demographic and ethnic groups have experienced a sharp rise in long-term unemployment.

Multiple impacts

The Pew researchers interviewed hundreds of unemployed people across the country. For those who have been out of work for more than six months, more than 55 percent said their family income took a major hit. But, the impact goes well beyond finances. Nearly half of the long-term unemployed said their situation has put a strain on family relationships and that they have lost touch with close friends because of their situation.

Perhaps the biggest impact of all is on self-image. Nearly 40 percent said they have lost self respect. One in four have sought out counseling. And 40 percent said they feel their unemployment will have a severe impact on their ability to achieve their long-term career goals.

Shoving friends away

People who have been unemployed for a long time have a hard time talking about it, whether it be to bloggers like me, or to their own close friends, But several people have talked about it online. The lifestyles website BlissTree.com asked its readers about the problem and several people wrote about it.

A woman named Sha wrote, "I have been unemployed for over a year and I have lost contact with some of my closest friends. I have alienated my family as well. Some of my friends I haven't spoken to for months for shame of saying that I am still unemployed. It is a difficult road. "

And the problem even extends to the cyber-world of friendship. A woman named Traci said, "I worked for several years at a fun office. About 75 people on my Facebook friends list are from this company, which I was laid off from last year. What am I supposed to do? If I read Facebook everyday, I'm constantly reading fun things I'm missing, new projects I'm not working on, etc. I could 'unfriend' them, or 'hide' them, but then maybe I wouldn't hear of a new position opening."

One woman's story

Angela Gregory-Gutierrez did not participate in the study, but she is a classic example of the type of person the study focused on in its report.

Angela lost her job as an associate producer at a TV station in Phoenix, Ariz., in April 2009. The TV business got hit hard by the Great Recession and lots of people lost their jobs. She remained unemployed for 14 months, just finding another job in Bakersfield, Calif., this past May.

"When I lost my job I was obviously devastated, but not surprised," she said. "The company I worked for had gone through two pretty big rounds of layoffs in 10 months. I had only been working there a year, but had relocated my family to Phoenix to take the job. The stress of relocating made losing my job more stressful."

Angela started networking, reworking her resume, doing all the right things to find another job, but they were scarce and she was having no luck.

"The hardest part about being unemployed was not letting myself get stuck in the rut of sitting at home day after day and becoming lethargic," she told me. " I was unemployed for five months before I had my first interview. It was another four months before I had another interview."

"Oddly enough, the hardest part wasn't the huge cut in pay, when going on unemployment. Yes, that hurt! But the hardest part was staying focused, and not getting depressed about being out of work."

Relationship patterns

Angela's reactions to being unemployed fit some of the patterns described in the Pew study, but she broke out of others.

She did seek out counseling to help her stay optimistic, and some of her relationships suffered.

"The one relationship that did suffer, was my marriage," she said. "Already in trouble after relocating, losing my job was the straw that broke the camel's back. Two months after I lost my job my husband and I separated. We both moved back to California, but decided to separate, and have not been together since May 2009." Now that she is working again, and he has returned to school, they are working on their relationship.

Where Angela broke out of the mold was her relationships with friends and other family members.

"I surrounded myself with people who helped me keep it together, so to speak, when I started to lose hope," she said. "I have one friend, in particular, who I leaned on quite heavily. Without her, and the counseling, I'm not sure how I would have survived. My family was a great help also. My dad, especially."

Some advice

Angela was persistent and hung in there, and eventually got back into the career she loves. Her advice:

"Network like crazy! And stick with the job search. Allow yourself to get a little depressed, eat a gallon of ice cream every now and then, but then pick yourself back up and keep moving," she told me. "Having a family and a routine helped. Otherwise, I thinking sitting around and staying depressed would have been much easier. Surround yourself with friends who can keep your spirits lifted, even when you don't feel like having them lifted. It's OK to be humble and ask for help. No one is above needing help every now and then. "

Great advice for everyone, whether you have a job or not.

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Bob, You are a moron

August 03 2010 at 8:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tony vaccaro

2 years ago, my wife got a job offer, so we relocated to Florida from the Northeast. We couldn't sell our home, so a year ago we rented it. Unfortunately, the rent doesn't cover our nut.
Everything was supposed to be fine except the company I worked for, as an independent, ran out of clients. That was April 09.
We ran out of savings, retirement and otherwise, last November.
We will probably lose our N.E. home by year's end. We rent in Florida.
I just turn 60.
I dread the phone calls and the mailman, both if which seem to bring only bad news.
My relationship with my wife is going steadily downhill. There is no communication, verbal or physical.
I had an interview with a company that was a perfect match for my skill set; was told that I could do the job in my sleep but I wasn't a good fit. We never even discussed compensation. I would have worked for peanuts.
Head hunters now want retainers($5000) to help you find something.
Can the nightmare get any worse.
I still have friends that have been supportive but most don't know what to say.
Golf use to be an outlet to clear my head but even at $15 a round, it has become too expensive. And my mind is so cluttered with real issues that I can't concentrate or have a good time.
I guess unloading like this with people in similar situations is therapy.

August 03 2010 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Living in a "right-to-work" state (as I do) doesn't help either. The "right-to-work" is NOT yours, but your employer's right to keep you. And then when they also break the law by hiring someone new after you get laid off and not called back. I'd love to sue my last employer for AT LEAST 8 figures. (That's right - $ 10 MILLION.)

August 03 2010 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment
Joe Berthiaume

I was terminated by my narcissistic supervisor for absolutely no justifiable reason. I still am not clear on what the reason was, and he claimed he did not have to provide specifics. This guy is arrogant, condescending, and clearly should not have the position he has. I would just hope other supervisors carefully examine all other avenues prior to termination. I was completely blindsighted by the termination, and this should never happen. Progrssive discipline policy was overlooked entirely.I was one of the better restaurant district managers, yet that made no difference. Please, consider the ramifications of a decision to terminate!!! It's a terrible experience, particularly if no longer a youngster. In my case, for whatever reason, I was given a life sentence for a minor misdemeanor (at most)!!!!

August 03 2010 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can recite chapter and verse the frustration of being jobless long term. The friends who don't get it when trying to tell them what it's like out there, it's all you can do not to explode. You are quick to anger when someone shoots off their mouth calling you "lazy, or just wanting to be on the government dole." What hurts the most are the politicians who grandstand, making asinine statements saying,"extending unemployment will be a disincentive to look for work." In between looking for work, we still have to eat, bathe, and maintain a place to live.

For over 1 1/2 million of us, we've exhausted all unemployment extensions, many of us are age 50 or older. It seems our elected officials don't have the courage to speak up on our behalf. We still need to work due to this recession, and employers don't want to hire us due to age. So, are we to just dry up and blow away? Because there is no income, not even unemployment, we cannot pay bills, that drives down your credit score, and employers are still checking credit scores before hiring. I feel as though we've been abandoned, the very politicians who are supposed to stand up for us have left us high and dry.

August 03 2010 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just recently lost my job with a school district that had to cut back about 50 positions to deal with the cuts in state aid to education. I'm in my mid-50s, so the age issue is a potential concern. Luckily I have strong credentials in a skill that is still marketable in a down economy, though I'm most likely to have to patch together a string of part-time jobs and temporary project work rather than find a full-time position. So replacing my health coverage is a primary concern. What I want to share about my approach to unemployment is this: Put your health, physical and mental, first - even ahead of the job search and networking. I'm using some of this extra time that I've got now to try to get in some vigorous exercise every day. It's helping to keep me in a good frame of mind, look younger and feel more energetic. Even if you don't get a nibble on the job front on a particular day, you won't feel like it was totally wasted if you worked out.

August 03 2010 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I too am unemployed and I am 57. I had taken a 35% cut in pay to go back to work, before I got layed-off yet agin. I am REALY tired of those people out there who have sacrificed their intelectual integrity at the alter of right wing ideology and find it necessary to blame all of the current mess on "liberals" and "lefties". Read some history and shut off talk radio! It seems to me that income redistribution started in 1980 when RR was elected. The truth is that any redistribution that is going on is coming the the bottom and accruing to the top. The only way through this mess is the same way I have survived the rest of the setbacks in my life. Faith, hard work, and maybe, just maybe all the prophets of doom and gloom,of hate and discontent will rethink their priorities and recognize that the way forward is together.

August 03 2010 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been unemployed for seven months now. One of my best friends retired last year (after having a stroke) and when we get together, we really don't have a lot to talk about. Since not having a job is the utmost thing on my mind, I talk about it a lot. When I'm with other friends or family, I try not to talk about it because it depresses them, but it's always there. In the first two months, everybody sympathized. Now it just seems like nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody has "great" advice, but if you are not unemployed in a market with double-digit unemployment rates, you have no idea what it's like. It's just a horrible situation to be in.

August 03 2010 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bryce is 100% dead on. There is no hope for us old folks, no matter what we bring to the table. I have had MANY phone interviews, but when the employer sees that you are over 35, you are out without even a chance. I'm 61 too, with unemployment and COBRA running out, yet too young for Social Security. Yeah, things are just great...

August 03 2010 at 4:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Patty's comment

I went thru what you guys are talking about. In 2006, the insurance company I was working for had a major layoff and I was one of its victims. At the time I was 59 years old. I sent out resume after resume and hardly received any calls and the few interviews I did go on came to nothing. I finally swallowed my pride and filed an application at a store to "ring the register". That was almost four years ago and I am still there. In the meantime I filed at 62 for my Social Security benefits which helps tremendously. However, I still feel a deep bitterness about being literally "kicked out of my career before it was the proper time". I detest those HR people that snicker when an older person appears for an interview. I know that some people would think this was a horrible quip but I refer to them as the "modern Nazi Gestapo" and I hope they get the same treatment when they are over 55 years old! Try to keep the faith! I know it is hard.

August 03 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was laid off from my job on New Year's Eve 2008. My husband was laid off from his job 3 months earlier. We were both 54 years old and previously made very upper middle class incomes. I was unemployed for 11 months before taking a job with a 60% pay cut. My husband was unemployed for 20 months before taking a 75% pay cut. The financial strain is unbearable. Losing your dreams is unbearable. But the saddest fall-out from all of this is losing our friends. We have lost nearly every couple we socialized with that we once considered good friends. Perhaps they did not know how to treat us--or we reacted differently around them--but their attitude became extremely condescending to us and we could not take it anymore. Has anyone else experienced this?

August 03 2010 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Donna's comment

redistribution of wealth = morepoor. even the least educated liberal socialist should begin to see this.

August 03 2010 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bob's comment

The redistribution of wealth that is occuring is going from the bottom to the top. You DO get that , right?

August 03 2010 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jack's comment

Apparently not..

February 10 2013 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

So, giving money to the poor equates to more poor people? I would love to hear how that equates, Mr. McConnell.

February 10 2013 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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