|By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times|
Two years ago, Meyer, 51, had a six-figure salary, a sizable 401(k) and the knowledge that he could support his wife and daughter. But he lost his job as a spokesman for a car rental company, and though he soon found another position, he was downsized again four months later.
Unemployment benefits checks helped him pay for healthcare for his family as he looked for work, but like 1.3 million Americans across the country, his federal unemployment benefits ran out
Meyer, jobless since
He has stopped making payments on his mortgage, home equity loan and credit cards. He has dipped into his 401(k) to pay for food, gas and the Internet. His family lives without health insurance; they're in the midst of applying for
The Great Recession technically ended in
The problem is especially persistent in
Work has been hard to find in
That's partly because some of
About 6.5% of the state's mortgaged homes are in foreclosure — the second-highest rate in the nation. The unemployment rate in the state dropped to 7.3% in December, from 7.8% the month before, but mostly because people had given up looking for work and left the labor force.
The odds of finding a job decrease the longer people are out of work. A person out of work for eight months will get called for an interview half as often as someone who has been out of work for just one month, even if the resumes are the same, one study has indicated.
Meyer is still hopeful he'll find employment. Every morning he goes to a friend's office, where he spends the day applying for work. He'd prefer a job in his field of corporate communications, but he's open to working as a security guard, a secretary — really, any paying job.
"If someone told me I could get some decent wages and get some benefits doing anything, I'll do it," Meyer said.
The extension of jobless aid, which has been debated in
Republicans say that cutting off benefits forces people to take jobs they otherwise would turn down, and saves the federal government billions of dollars.
Democrats say the economy is still too slow for any sort of cuts.
The issue got trickier for Republicans this year when jobs numbers released by the government showed anemic growth in December, bolstering the Democrats' stance.
"It's quite out of the ordinary to cut off these benefits in such a weak labor market," said
Meyer would be willing to move from his home on a cul-de-sac that he thought he'd never leave. He's applied for jobs in
"You live it; you breathe it," Meyer said. "You can't escape unemployment — the fear that hangs over your head that everything's going to go away."
The unemployed present a problem for Republican Gov.
New Jersey Democratic Sen.
The worst for Meyer is the feeling that he can't support his 12-year-old daughter and his wife, who has fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder that prevents her from working. He hates that his daughter has to field calls from
A little while back, his daughter was asked to write an essay about an important event in her life, and she wrote about the day he came home and told the family he'd been laid off.
"It pains me," he said, "to think that's at the top of her mind."
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