Unemployment may not be matching highs set during past recessions yet, but people are out of work for longer stretches than ever before. It’s taking the average unemployed person more than six months to find a new job, according to national data. That’s the highest length of joblessness in six decades.
For Deb Carlson, the seven-month search for a new job has proved taxing.
The former administrative assistant has joined several networking groups, kept in touch with her former W.A. Whitney co-workers and commiserated with other out-of-work family members.
“Everyone said just enjoy the time off, but that’s not my personal style. I’m not enjoying the time off,” she said. “As the weeks stretch into months, you start to get frantic. You start to think you’re never going to find a job.”
She’s not alone. More than 4.4 million people in June were out of work for 27 weeks or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the average length of unemployment was 24.5 weeks, the highest since the government began collecting the data in 1948.
Although the data isn’t broken down to the local level, monthly Illinois Department of Employment Security surveys of people receiving unemployment in the Rockford metro area show a similar trend. In June, 36 percent had been out of work for more than 15 weeks; in January, the figure was 16 percent.
The longer people are unemployed, the easier it is for them to get discouraged by their search, said Dave Hammes, one of several facilitators of the Re-employment Networking Group at Holy Family Church.
“It’s hard enough for them to keep up their energy through the job search,” he said. “They have to figure out ways to find positive aspects of it along the way, so they can keep feeling like they’re making progress.”
Hammes said he and his fellow facilitators stress making as many contacts with hiring managers as possible, even if a company doesn’t have job openings posted,
“If they keep up their work and can get into conversations with the hiring people, then they feel there is some progress,” he said. “If they’re not in conversations with people, then they get to feeling pretty alone.”
Carlson has had a few interviews but mostly spends hours on the computer, applying for every job she can find. She’s considering going to school in the fall but hasn’t decided on a field of study yet.
“It’s very difficult not getting depressed,” she said. “But I’ve got to stay with it.”
Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at (815) 987-1346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.