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Bleak Houses: Hiring Discrimination and Distress Darkening Holidays for Millions

| December 11, 2011

Those days again.

By David Elliot

Many people know that some 14 million Americans, officially about 9 percent of the nation’s work force, are unemployed. Another 12 million are under-employed. That means they’d like full-time work but can’t get it, or maybe they’re working two or three jobs without benefits in a desperate struggle to make ends meet.

But what’s the face of un- and under-employed America? Statistics roll out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics as if on a conveyer belt. But how do we measure human suffering in this Great Recession?

At USAction, we recently asked our online members to share with us their stories of un- and under-employment. Some 1,200 people responded. We culled through the stories, picking and choosing the ones that seemed to represent recurring themes, and published them in a report, Hardly Working: Stories from Un- and Under-Employed Americans.

The report (see below) documents the boiling frustration, despair, and economic uncertainty that unemployed Americans face this holiday season.

The Live Commentary

It could get worse. If Congress does not act to extend the federal unemployment insurance program, 1.8 million Americans will begin to lose benefits in January, with another million to follow the next month.

In the report, we broke down the difficulties of unemployed Americans into three broad categories: hiring discrimination, financial and emotional distress, and despair about the shape of our country.

We documented many types of hiring discrimination. By far the most common was discrimination based on age. People in their 50s and 60s — and even their 40s — often can’t even get in the door for an interview. Whatever their age, many others currently can’t get a job because they don’t have a job, since many employers explicitly shun applications from the currently unemployed.

The stories of distress came from people who have exhausted their life savings because of lengthy unemployment. They now face a frightening and bleak future. Middle-aged individuals and families have moved in with their parents to avoid homelessness. Across the country, people are going hungry, and parents are skipping meals so that their children can eat. Divorces are a byproduct of today’s economy, as are suicide attempts.

We documented the increasingly common despair over what’s happening in America with stories from people who, already facing a challenging economy, have seen things get even worse because of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

We also heard from people whose jobs have been outsourced to other countries. But some people reported outsourcing themselves to other countries to find work, including one person who went to China, one who went to Canada, and two who went to South Korea. Many of the Americans moving overseas are schoolteachers. As teaching jobs in the United States slip away, South Korea has decided to invest in its public education system to build a smarter workforce and a better future.

What are we to make of these stories?

Congress can do three things right now to improve the plight of jobless and under-employed Americans. First, it can extend the federal unemployment insurance program through 2012. Second, it can ban discrimination based on employment status, because telling people they can’t get a job because they don’t have a job is downright un-American. Third, it can pass robust jobs legislation. Yes, this would increase our debt in the short term, but any economist can tell you that one of the best ways to narrow the deficit is to turn unemployed workers into workers who once again pay federal income taxes.

To recharge our middle class, which drives our economy, we need jobs. Good jobs.

Why is it so hard for our leaders to understand that?

David Elliot is communications director for USAction, a grassroots advocacy group with affiliates and partners in 24 states. Distributed by OtherWords.

Hardly Working: A Report on the Unemployed and Underemployed

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29 Responses for “Bleak Houses: Hiring Discrimination and Distress Darkening Holidays for Millions”

    • tgmjr7 says:

      I did not vote for the current administration.

      The day after the election, my client cancelled my project.

      I was part of a 70,000 global reduction of force.

      I am 46 years old, I have an MBA, BS College of Engineering and a PMP.

      I have not found work in two years. None.

      The jobs that used to be there for native born Americans are now full time jobs for immigrants, whether legal or illegal.

      Based on the 2010 Census results, the net job growth over the last ten year period went 100% to immigrants. The net job growth for native born Americans was zero (0) over this same 10 year period. Working class is 18-65 years old.

      See the Center for Immigration Study by Steven Camarota, Phd.

      We better start paying attention to what is really going on in the global America because we are being invaded. Period. And corporate America is more than happy to hire cheap foreign labor right here in the US.

      The other big lie is, there is NO technical worker shortage in the US for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs. The US puts out more graduates than China and India combined, period.

      See the Center for Immigration Study by John Milano.

      Wake up, greed is all around us. The foundational principle for profit is to employee people, not corrupt the system.

      Practice conscious capitalism not cronyism.

  1. JIM.R says:

    Question the many un- under employed as to their views on unions as an answer to this problem and many will spout the anti-union propaganda they have been fed for the last thirty years.
    Instead of the dog eat dog , worker against worker attitude that has been fostered and promoted by the elites that have bought the political class with their campaign donations, the unemployed and those lucky enough to still have a decent job should be in solidarity to force fairness and living wages for all.
    Before the screams of Socialism start, my advice is to learn a little about the subject

  2. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    For those of us who are unemployed and didn’t qualify for benefits, the situation is even bleaker.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    When it comes to job discrimination, specially regarding age….the familiar excuse of potential employers for not hiring 40 or over is: your are “over qualified” for the position…This is the result of lack of corporate regulation and being endured by our workers now. Greed rules!

  4. JIM.R says:

    The presidents jobs program is putting a bandaid on a bloody, gushing wound, designed to make him look like he cares about the job problem and get him re-elected.
    If he was serious he would lead the fight to undue all the anti union laws and wipe out the unfair free trade agreements that have been passed ,since and including NAFTA, and impose tariffs on goods coming into the US from countries that don’t have balanced and fair trade with us.
    Obama has the gall to go around the country pushing his inadequate jobs program , while not more than a month ago he signed three more trade agreements with Third world countries, and thanks to NAFTA thousands of trucks are poised to begin operating in the US, which will wipe out one more blue collar job employing hundreds of thousands ,if not millions of Americans.

    • wendy says:

      Its hard to blame the President for the jobs program when congress (mainly the republican led house) is responsible for shredding the program and making it a joke.

      • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

        They’re all responsible, Wendy. Don’t doubt that for a moment. Playing politics is how we got stuck with this President with no experience at anything.

  5. Jojo says:

    …And Gov Rick Scott is no help isolating the unemployed further by reducing benefits and instituting anti labor and social programs. He is totally anti union and wants people working for minimum wage to feed a family of four. He is now hand-picking colleges to receive millions to promote high tech jobs requiring engineers and the like which not everyone graduating from high school or college is equipped or suitable to do. College takes money today, some more than others and family’s don’t have that.

    After all, teachers and educators in Florida are retiring, quitting, looking for other employment because of the burdens and loss of pay instituted by Gov Rick Scott. Some teachers have not received a pay raise in three or four years. More so, families are leaving Florida for jobs elsewhere which affects school boards to reduce staff because of lower tax rolls. It’s a vicious cycle that continues spiraling in our State and we have a Governor who’s lost somewhere in the middle of it.

    • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

      Scott is in the bad position of having to cut debt and raise revenue. He is not responsible for the labor costs. He IS responsible for meeting a budget.

      Lots of people are going to be leaving Florida because they have to survive. The higher wages are up north.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    Jim I am with you for…taxing imports from the countries that don’t buy from us, as much as we buy from them…China one of them. Shut down our ports to container imports and reopen our factories and hire our labor force.Tax the wealthy more than the 1% that they are paying now. No tax incentives, refunds breaks or heavens for multinationals. No foreign aid, aid ours first, no foreign wars let these pseudo allies fight their own. We can no longer afford it! And Jim I agree with you that Obama yet has no delivered his promises. Unfortunately he is still the best, of what the two parties can offer.
    For those afraid of the trade wars let me tell you that if we were to shut down our ports to trade….at least coming in….we are capable of producing all of what we consume and if not, we can do without some of the cheap and faulty stuff we buy now for along while after our manufacturing starts rolling again.
    This so called “Free Trade” is killing our national economy and jobs, as is only one way… IN! Only country in the world that commits this financial suicide to favor a 1%.

    • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

      A man who has never even run a Dairy Queen is the best we can do? Maybe that’s why we’re in this mess.

      ANYBODY BUT Obama.

      Everything else we aree on.

  7. JIM.R says:

    We are on the same page except for your support of the lesser of two evils, which you suggest to be Obama.
    IF people insist on voting for the lesser of two evils, then they should be voting for Obama’s opponent.
    Obama has advanced the neo-con agenda beyond Bush’s wildest dreams. He is the first President that can be accurately called a assassin and has violated the rule of law, turned his back on the constitution, and is even guilty of killing an American citizen without a trial.
    The reality is that voting for either of the two parties that are actually one and the same, is futile.
    Someone said that voting is just a suggestion box for the slaves. I agree

  8. Kip Durocher says:

    We need to insure a fair playing field for our American workers. Countries that manipulate their currency, give massive government support to their industries and in quite a few cases outright own the industries ~ placing high tariffs on these countries goods and products in no way violates any treaty we have ever made. They are signing treaties with the US and not following them one bit. China sells more illegal knock off products of American trade-mark goods than American companies do in China and the government of China does virtually nothing to stop it. An occasional high media coverage token arrest is meaningless. There are fake Apple stores, not just products in China.
    Obama barley lets out a peep about these major money trade issues.
    Obama has lost his mind and is starting a cold war with China when that is not the issue anymore. The issue is trade ~ fair trade. TRADE =MONEY = NATIONAL PROSPERITY
    Obama get some advisers with brains ~ not retread cold warriors.
    USA ~ 2,500 military service people to Australia ~ result ~ big $$$ expense to US.
    China ~ 800 engineers to Costa Rica ~ result ~ new sports stadium, remodeled refinery
    ~ big profits and goodwill to China.
    President Obama ~ the cold war is over ~ and you are losing the new economic war for us.

    Oh for a candidate for the Presidency who has some common sense.

    Please no one say Ron Paul.

  9. palmcoaster says:

    I agree 2500 military service people to Australia….jeez ! when enough is enough. Mr.President WE CAN”T AFFORD IT!

    • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

      This President is hell bent on growing big government. Just wait until healthcare kicks in. Every last federal employee makes/will make more than the military.

      Yet those are the jobs you scream about first and the loudest.

  10. Liana G says:

    What’s wrong with Ron Paul Kip?

    What about US policies and those of other wealthy nations whose oppressive policies harm developing countries? Google the high number of suicide deaths by farmers in Australia, India and other countries to see how this also affects the local citizens. Let’s not forget that China is still a developing country new on the world stage. Yes there is large scale human sufferage but let’s not turn a blind eye to what’s going on here either.

    The governments of my country and similar countries are nothing more than puppets to western governments. Their wealthy natural resources: timber, bauxite, gold, aluminum, sugar, seafood, etc., do not benefit the locals but traded under the oppressive policies of the IMF, World Bank, NAFTA, and other organizations. Organizations that do not want these countries to pay off their debts because keeping them in debt benefits them. They are nothing more than legalize Mafia operations.


    Food Dumping: Trade, Economy, & Related Issues: (Last updated Saturday, November 12, 2011.)

    Food aid (when not for emergency relief) can actually be very destructive on the economy of the recipient nation and contribute to more hunger and poverty in the long term. Free, subsidized, or cheap food, below market prices undercuts local farmers, who cannot compete and are driven out of jobs and into poverty, further slanting the market share of the larger producers such as those from the US and Europe. Many poor nations are dependent on farming, and so such food aid amounts to food dumping. In the past few decades, more powerful nations have used this as a foreign policy tool for dominance rather than for real aid.


    This article explores who has benefited most from this aid, the recipients or the donors. (Last updated Sunday, June 05, 2011)

    In 1970, the world’s rich countries agreed to give 0.7% of their gross national income as official international development aid, annually.

    Since that time, billions have certainly been given each year, but rarely have the rich nations actually met their promised target.

    For example, the US is often the largest donor in dollar terms, but ranks amongst the lowest in terms of meeting the stated 0.7% target.

    Furthermore, aid has often come with a price of its own for the developing nations. Common criticisms, for many years, of foreign aid, have included the following:

    • Aid is often wasted on conditions that the recipient must use overpriced goods and services
    from donor countries
    • Most aid does not actually go to the poorest who would need it the most
    • Aid amounts are dwarfed by rich country protectionism that denies market access for poor
    country products while rich nations use aid as a lever to open poor country markets to their
    • Large projects or massive grand strategies often fail to help the vulnerable; money can often
    be embezzled away.


    Corruption: (Last updated Sunday, September 04, 2011.)

    We often hear leaders from rich countries telling poor countries that aid and loans will only be given when they show they are stamping out corruption.

    While that definitely needs to happen, the rich countries themselves are often active in the largest forms of corruption in those poor countries, and many economic policies they prescribe have exacerbated the problem.
    Corruption in developing countries definitely must be high on the priority lists (and is increasingly becoming so in the wake of the global financial crisis), but so too must it be on the priority lists of rich countries.

    • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

      What’s wrong with paul is that he thinks 9/11 was an inside job, he thinks the terrorist threat is a myth. He has NO foreign policy.

      Same problem our current man has.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Jim, I do not care if our Commader in Chief is Rep, Dem or Independent, as long as does the right things to create jobs stabilize the housing market and fix the 99% financial tragedies .I voted for Reagan and GW and then as I was sorry about it!. The only one worth was Clinton and then he had to mess up “a la Monica” and tainted his good work. I went with Obama and yet he has not delivered the promised Change, but I know he has tried at least lately after wasting his first 2 years intending to convince the GOP’s, to no avail. We need to unite to take our 20 million or more of our fellow Americans from misery and by doing so repair our failing economy. We need more revenue and less waste to fix our budgets. Every president before Obama, got in general some collaboration from the House and Senate to achieve his promised goals including GW with his fake WMD, our current one, only got an all out opposition in every issue proposed. How he could ever deliver…?
    Lets finally leave the conservative and liberal fanaticism among us, out of our way to recovery, please.
    What we need now is each of us stop buying imported junk and look for its American made counterpart and if not available demand that is produced here. Walmart should be the first one to set up the example and invest in some USA manufacturing to make in the USA, some of the Chinese products that it sells.
    When it comes to all these electronic gadgets that Apple, Hewlett Packard, and many more make with slave wages in Asia…lets do not buy them until made in the USA, even if will cost a little more. Ultimately will be the only one thing that will work… and maybe just wishful thinking of mine. Every time I check the labels of what I buy from food to any other item and see it produced or made in the USA, gives me hope and I can smile. We drive Fords or GM’s in our family….what about you..?
    I am not buying and I-phone until is made in the USA…

  12. JIM.R says:

    I guess I didn’t make my position clear regarding the Rep –Dem , liberal –conservative divide in this country.
    Both parties are owned by the corporate interests, they appoint the candidates and we vote to approve one or the other. Who wins changes nothing, The wars continue, the flow of wealth still goes to the top1%. the impoverishment of the rest of us goes on and on.
    Our constitution has been reduced to “just a goddamned piece of paper” Our rights and freedom to protest against this injustice is being met with violence and force. What I’m saying is continue voting for one or the other approved candidates and you give your consent to this destruction of everything this country has ever claimed to stand for. So far it has just been a myth, but always something to strive for.

  13. Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

    Our rights and freedom to protest against this injustice is being met with violence and force??? What violence and force???

    Where else in the world can you protest like you can here? The Tea Party made several trips to Washington without incident and even the Wall Street protestors were left alone until they were asked to move two months later and refused.

    We have enough problems in this country without lying to people. Shoot, look at our recent voter turnout. THAT’S WHATS KILLING US. If people wont vote in this country, how long do you expect to remain free?

  14. JIM.R says:

    Does Oakland, New york, Washington, and their reaction to the ows protests ring a bell.
    How about Scott Olson, ever hear of him?
    Voting is a joke , no change will come through the vote until the money is taken out of the campaigns.
    The Germans thought they were free and they voted, right up till the Nazis turned Germany into hell on earth.

    • Kip Durocher says:

      violence does not always need to be physical to be harmful.

      the robbery of our school system as pointed out in

      is as violent as it can get

      the attack on voters rights by filthy rich degenerates is violence, ~ read the link ~ research:

      You want real violence ~ Scott Olson ~ an Iraq war vet ~ was shot from 8-10 feet right in the side of the head with a tear gas canister by a cop who was aiming at his head ~ don’t believe me ~ watch the gd video ~ there are dozens out there
      then the police threw tear gas and flash-bang grenades into the group of people bent over trying to help him. That is violence in the physical form.

      Politicians robbing very elderly seniors of the only things they have left by deregulating crooks and not even enforcing the laws they allow to remain is violence.

      What did the government do after Enron and all

      • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

        As I said, you are allowed to protest until YOU commit violence.

        This nation will not remain free unless its citizens take an active role. That’s a fact. Say goodbye to your freedom. I don’t think your gonna like what your left with.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    One of the 10%.The only ones committing violence against the people exercising their “freedom of speech and peaceful assembly” are the local cities governments right now.. The only further peaceful movement I see that will work is open boycott….by not buying imports and start pedaling and walking more by cutting the fill up at the pump. Just buy the essentials and make sure are made in the USA. And finally unseat all these latest fascist that lobby against the 99%, when the time comes the ballot box.
    I think 2012 will be the year with the real people’s message to the House, Senate and Executive. Until then “recalls” will be the name of the game.

  16. Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

    100% in agreement with palmcoaster on this one. Enough of the extremes. Fix the damned economy. Buy USA goods or DON’T BUY.

    • Dee says:

      And don’t buy, from, donate to or use the services of companies that refuse to hire the unemployed….If they don’t want to hire us, then WE don’t want to hire them !

      Here’s a list of 72 companies. We’ll also include Major Universities and Sony – Ericcsonto the list.


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