Left Behind: The Long-term Unemployed Struggle in an Improving Economy

September 21, 2014

Explores the experiences of unemployed Americans, and especially the long-term unemployed. Examines the recession’s impact on the financial condition of unemployed Americans and how they’ve attempted to cope with their diminished income and savings. Presents data on the extent of support from employed and unemployed workers for governmental policies and programs to lower unemployment.

A new Heldrich Center analysis of unemployed and long-term unemployed Americans reveals the profound struggles of Americans who remained jobless for months and years even as the economy gradually recovers. The survey reveals that more than 7 in 10 of the long-term unemployed say they have less in savings and income than they did five years ago; more than 8 in 10 of the long-term unemployed rate their personal financial situation negatively as only fair or poor; more than 6 in 10 unemployed and long-term unemployed say they experienced stress in family relationships and close friendships during their time without a job; 55 percent of the long-term unemployed say they will need to retire later than planned because of the recession, while 5 percent say the weak economy forced them into early retirement; and nearly half of the long-term unemployed say it will take 3 to 10 years for their families to recover financially, while another 1 in 5 say it will take longer than that or that they will never recover.

The survey was conducted between July 24 and August 3, 2014 by the Heldrich Center with a nationally representative sample of 1,153 Americans, including a sample of 394 unemployed workers looking for work, 389 Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months or who were unemployed for a period of more than six months at some point in the last five years, and 463 individuals who currently have jobs.