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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 5

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 5

Subject:

Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 31 Dec 2010 19:56:34 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (223 lines)

The Shattered American Dream:
Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and
Faith in their Futures

John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development
Rutgers University
https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/content/Shattered_American_Dream_Press_Release.pdf

National survey finds...

* Nearly 6 in 10 unemployed workers have sought new job
  for more than one year; fully one-third have searched
  for more than two years.

* 41% of jobless Americans doubt the ability of either
  President Obama or a Republican Congress to lead
  economic recovery

* Prolonged unemployment of U.S. workers leads them to
  question the value of hard work

Contact:

Professor Carl Van Horn, [log in to unmask] (732)
932-4100, ext. 6305, Professor Cliff Zukin,
[log in to unmask] (732) 932-4100, ext. 6205, or Robb C.
Sewell, Senior Writer/Editor, [log in to unmask] or
(732) 932-4100, ext. 6312.

Copies of The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed
Workers Lose Ground, Hope, and Faith in their Futures
are available online at http://bit.ly/hDB6q4.

A new survey of unemployed American workers documents
dramatic erosion in the quality of life for millions of
Americans. Their financial reserves are exhausted,
their job prospects nil, their family relations
stressed, and their belief in governmentfis ability to
help them is negligible. They feel hopeless and
powerless, unable to see their way out of the Great
Recession that has claimed 8.5 million jobs.

The survey shows that only one-quarter of those first
interviewed in August 2009 have found full-time jobs
some 15 months later. And most of those who have become
reemployed have taken jobs they did not really want for
less pay. Moreover, the recession has wreaked havoc on
the retirement plans of older workers.

These are some of the main findings of The Shattered
American Dream: Unemployed Workers Lose Ground, Hope,
and Faith in their Futures, a new report from the John
J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The
Heldrich Center first interviewed a national sample of
1,202 unemployed workers in August 2009, using the web-
enabled KnowledgePanel® conducted by Knowledge Networks
of Menlo Park, CA. Just over 900 were re-interviewed in
March 2010, and 764 were re-interviewed between
November 5 and 28, 2010 for this report.

The survey, coming on the heels of the national
election on November 2, finds that only 30% of the
unemployed feel more hopeful about an economic recovery
as a result of the election. When asked to choose
between President Obama and the Republicans in Congress
in who they trust to do a better job handling the
economy, "neither" wins at 41%. One third (32%) chose
the President and far fewer -- just 17% -- pick the
Republicans in Congress. Another 9% say they trust
"both."

Professor Carl Van Horn, Director of the Heldrich
Center and a co-author of the study, commented, "Well
over half of the unemployed have been looking for a job
for over a year, and are pessimistic about their
chances of getting a new job in the next year. They
face a situation not of their own making and have
exhausted all ideas of what to do next to get work and
take care of their families. The climate is one of
pessimism, tinged with resignation."

Among the main findings of the survey:

* More than half of the unemployed (58%) are
  pessimistic about finding a job in the near future.

* By a margin of 61% to 35%, more feel they will be
  stuck in their current financial shape rather
  than making it back to where they were before the
  recession began.

* Over half (54%) say the recession has caused stress
  among family members.

* Three in five (61%) say the economic situation has
  had a major impact on their family; over half say the
  recession has caused them to make a major change in
  their lifestyle.

The amount of time people have been without a job
documents the intransigence of the country's fight
with unemployment. About 6 in 10 of the unemployed have
been on the job hunt for at least a year, with fully
one-third looking for over two years. Just under half
of the unemployed believe another year will go by
before they begin working again, if ever, or are unsure
when they'll return to earning a regular income.

Unemployed workers' assessment of the long-term impact
of the recession is bleak. Just 9% think the economy
will begin to recover in the next year, with another
33% anticipating economic recovery within two years;
56% believe recovery is three or more years out. Half
believe there will be lasting changes in how secure
workers feel in their jobs, the ability of young people
to attend college, and workers having to take jobs
below their skill level. Even more, around 60%, feel
that older workers will not be able to retire when they
want and will have to work part time in retirement.

The financial condition of the unemployed is dire. Some
81% rate their personal financial situation as being in
only fair or poor shape, with 46% saying they are in
flat out poor shape. Comparing how much they now have
in salary and savings to before the recession began,
73% say they have less, including 58% who say they have
a lot less. Just 38% feel they will do better in the
coming year. And, in a sad state of resignation, only
35% believe they will get back to where they were
before the recession -- 61% are resigned to the idea
that they will have to accept a downwardly mobile
economic station.

The unemployed are in perilous economic shape. Whatever
fat there may have been in the family budget is long
gone. At this point, sacrifices are cutting into
muscle, and the soul is being diminished. Half of the
panelists surveyed say they have given up things they
consider desirable, and another 40% are also forgoing
what is essential to get by. When asked to name areas
where they have reduced spending so much that it has
made a difference in their family's day-to-day life,
51% check off food, 73% clothing, 42% shelter, and 45%
health care. Overall, 52% say there has been a major
change in their lifestyle.

Professor Cliff Zukin, a co-author of the study,
commented, "The depth and length of the recession's
toll on the unemployed has caused them first to
question and now to disbelieve one of the fundamental
tenets of the American credo -- that people have it in
their power to succeed if they work hard enough."

A national survey conducted in the late fall by The
Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and
Harvard University found that 66% of the general public
believe that "most people who want to get ahead can
make it if they're willing to work hard," and 32% feel
that "hard work and determination are no guarantee of
success." The Heldrich Center survey of the unemployed
finds 57% believing that hard work does not guarantee
success, and just 40% feeling that hard work will lead
to success.

The recession has hit jobless workers over 50 years of
age particularly hard. It has scrambled the retirement
plans of the great majority of those over 50: 27% are
involuntarily retired, unable to find jobs and dropping
out of the labor force; another 46% say they will have
to put off retirement. These plans will have
significant consequences for demands on the nation's
system of social security: one-fifth of unemployed
workers over age 50 reports having filed for social
security, while another two-fifths say they will do so
as soon as they are eligible.

The reemployed have no bed of roses. Between first
contact in August 2009 and the November 2010 survey,
just 26% landed full-time jobs. Adding part-time
workers who do not want a full-time job brings this
number up to 34%. While they are now employed, it has
come at a substantial cost. By a margin of 54% to 46%,
more say their new job is just something to get them by
while they look for something better, as opposed to
really wanting to do for the long term. Fully 4 in 10
say they had to take a job in a new field or career.
Just over half say they are satisfied with their job;
less than half say they are not concerned with job
security in their new perch. Half took a cut in pay or
benefits.

The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development
is based at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning
and Public Policy, at Rutgers University. It is one of
the nation?s leading university-based research and
policy centers dedicated to raising the effectiveness
of the American workplace through improved workforce
education, placement, and training. The Center
identi?es innovative workforce practices and practical
policy changes that can help Americans receive the
education and training they need to be productive and
prosperous in a global knowledge economy. Learn more at
www.heldrich.rutgers.edu.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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