The Unspoken Impact Of Unemployment

Last Friday, NPR featured a piece on the emotional/psychological toll some are experiencing as a result of the rampant unemployment we’re seeing in these grim economic times.

We’ve all heard the numbers, but listening to one individual emotionally talk about losing his or her job and searching for work brings the reality into stark focus.

How much a job factors into a person’s sense of self and identity varies greatly, of course.  And, losing one’s job is not always a negative experience.  I’ve had friends whose job eliminations have proven to be a blessing in disguise, as they’ve moved into better positions elsewhere.  Some people take the opportunity to go back to school, or enter into a new career.  For some a lay off can mean a much-needed kick in the ass or a wake up call to readjust expectations and/or goals.

However, in a recession, this silver lining is less likely to be found.  The number of available jobs is greatly disproportionate to the number of unemployed.  Credit markets have come to a grinding halt, meaning companies are struggling to find lines of credit and make payroll, much less add jobs.  In addition, when unemployment runs out, people cannot turn to credit as easily.  Which, in theory, should be positive; but how are they meant to live?  The number of qualified, multi-skilled workers looking for jobs is staggering.  And even more staggering is the number of skill-focused workers who have lost their jobs, most notably in manufacturing/labor sectors.

Silvia Martinez, who was profiled by NPR’s All Things Considered, aggressively looked for work after her human resources administrator position was eliminated,

“I apply for jobs and apply for jobs and no one calls. Nobody. I’ve even gone as far as applying at fast-food places; I’ve applied at Wal-Mart, at Kmart, at Target,” she says.

The anxiety, sense of panic and complete hopelessness people like Martinez feel has become more and more prevalent among the unemployed.  Calls to suicide prevention hotlines have nearly doubled.  There have also been reports of an increase in domestic violence and child abuse.  The extreme stress is taking its toll.

I can’t begin to imagine a solution, aside from time.  I have no clue how the new administration’s stimulus package will play out in the next few years.  I do know that there seems to be some fundamental ideological shifts happening, most notably around spending within one’s means.  How this will impact certain sectors remains to be seen, although we’ve certainly seen an immediate impact on retailers/manufacturing.

Positions were eliminated at my office this morning; for me these considerations are weighing heavily.  My position will be impacted in a way that I am not happy about, but I have my job.  It’s a strange thing, trying to navigate between the sadness, the disappointment and the relief.

Because, I don’t know how I would feel if I were laid off.  Nor do I know what would happen.  Would I easily find another job in my field?  Would I be forced to take a lower-paying administrative job?  Would I need to supplement my income with a retail or restaurant job?  Would I perhaps find a better job?  Would I enjoy not commuting 2 hours a day?  How would I feel?

In the end, I am not worried about myself.  Because there are thousands upon thousands of others in far worse situations.  Jobless, single, with children, without prospects.  What are they doing to do?  And how are we going to help them?


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5 Responses to “The Unspoken Impact Of Unemployment”

  1. Claudia (Bluebears) Says:

    I heard that NPR story, it was heartbreaking. It seriously affected my mood all night. I just don’t know, its all really really scary.

  2. John (aspex) Says:

    Time is the only thing that’ll work. And if we don’t break the stranglehold the credit/banking system has on the population in the time of recovery, it’ll just happen again.

    Interesting times, eh?

  3. funnyface Says:

    Between this and the news that 14,000 people are losing their healthcare every DAY (read that on think progress), and all the people I saw, from all walks of life, while I was spending quality time in the unemployment office….it’s BAD out there.

    I think I ran the gamut of emotions over my layoff. On the one hand I hated my job and welcomed a bit of “vacation.” On the other, I felt like an utter loser every time I had to tell someone I was laid off, or when the guy at the bank acted really condescending because I was there to deposit my unemployment check. Now I’m working a similar job for less pay, and we’re reevaluating our budget. I just feel relieved and grateful.

  4. Sukie Says:

    I appreciate this post, truly.

    I’ve mentioned here before that I was laid off the first week of February.

    But, I have never talked to anyone about how I felt about it. Just, what happened. The facts only.

    When you’re fired, you have anger. It’s easy and directed at someone, some point – either yourself for screwing up or at others if you think you did nothing wrong.

    When you quit, it’s up to you. You’ve thought about it and planned it or acted on a fluke and threw yourself into the fates. Either way you went about it, you did it.

    When you’re laid off – who do you blame? What do you do? The anger is displaced because no one really wanted you to go, including yourself. There was no planning and there was no feeling of relief as you release yourself into the wind. You just sit there, watching your future melt away. That day, you are in purgatory, left to float in an empty sea – and the sea isn’t even a serene blue, it’s gloomy and cloudy.

    Basically, as I felt it, you are in the best relationship of your life and they break up with you out of the blue. For no reason. They might as well have sent a text.

    I watched my future dissolve. The house of my dreams went up in smoke, the career I wanted blew up into little bits of drywall. All I can say is thank god I do not have kids. Thank God. Whatever I have to do next, it won’t affect them…

    In the two weeks, I have found three jobs to apply for. That’s it. Some websites offer NO jobs in my field and skill level. I get my first unemployment check this week.

    The worst part, I guess you could say, is that my boss didn’t want me to go. He said I did nothing wrong. There was nothing I could do. He cried with me when he said they were laying me off. A man of 60, crying for a young woman of 26. … it sucked a good amount of hope out of me…

    Thank you Penny, for this post. I’ve never shared this with anyone. Not even my boyfriend. (I don’t want him to worry, he’s got enough on his plate).

    Thank you.

  5. pennyplastic Says:

    Sukie, thanks for sharing how you’re feeling. It’s important to get your feelings down, in any medium available.

    I am certain your boss had no say in the decision, and it’s obvious he was not happy with said decision. Lay offs very often have nothing to do with performance, it’s all numbers.

    Like I said, I know I am a stranger, and I don’t know what you do professionally, but if I can be of any help….please email.

    Keep us posted :-)


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