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Checking in with the long-term unemployed

Jai Damian has an M.A. in behavioral science. She says during her time of unemployment she sent out hundreds of resumes. But employers told her she was too overqualified.

Kai Ryssdal: Taxes. The economy. Jobs. Inequality. Without having actually seen a copy of the speech itself, that's still probably a pretty good guess as to what's going to be the backbone of the president's State of the Union tonight.

Back in September, when Mr. Obama gave what was billed as his big speech to get jobs back on track, we invited some people to come watch with us around our conference table. Then we went into the studio to talk about it. A debrief about what they'd heard and what they thought things would be like in the coming year.

One of our guests that night was 41-year-old Jai Damian. Here's part of what she said that night:

Jai Damian: I think things are just going to get worse and more and more people are going to become unemployed. But when is it going to stop? And I don't think its going to stop anytime soon. I feel that we're looking at another four, five or six years before things really start to turn around.

So we got her back in the studio and asked her if she still feels the same way.

Damian: Absolutely. I don't see anything getting better. They say the numbers for unemployment are dropping, but that only accounts for the number of people that are currently eligible for unemployment, and I still know plenty of people that are unemployed and searching.

Ryssdal: Tell me about yourself. What do you do?

Damian: I am working part time, which is not what I wanted to do because -- like I told you before -- I'm looking for something full time. But I went ahead and took something part time, one, just to have something current on my resume. And two, it was just getting to the point that sitting at home searching for work was becoming too depressing on a regular basis.

Ryssdal: How long has it been since you've been without full-time work?

Damian: Probably almost close to a year and a half now.

Ryssdal: And remind us what you were doing.

Damian: I have, my background is in education and nonprofits.

Ryssdal: And what are you doing now part time?

Damian: Administrative work, which is also consisting of marketing, billing collections, in the automotive field.

Ryssdal: Automotive, not education?

Damian: Not education.

Ryssdal: So you're way out there?

Damian: Exactly.

Ryssdal: But you had to have something?

Damian: I had to have something. And I got this on a fluke and it was because I knew someone who knew someone who needed someone.

Ryssdal: Are you still sending out resumes and doing all that stuff that job seekers have to do?

Damian: Well I stopped for a minute only because I had been told that I was over-educated. I was over-qualified. I didn't have anything current on my resume. So I said OK, I'll take a step back, I'll wait a couple months, update my resume and then start resending it out. And I think it's going to be really interesting if I actually get calls because I have something current.

Ryssdal: And about how many were sending out on a weekly basis?

Damian: At least 100.

Ryssdal: A hundred a week?

Damian: At least 100.

Ryssdal: Any nibbles?

Damian: I was lucky if I got a thank you, but no thank you.

Ryssdal: What happens if you don't find full-time work in, say, the next 12 months?

Damian: I will probably be, I will have to move in with someone else.

Ryssdal: And you've done that already? You're not a college kid...

Damian: Exactly. I'm too old to go home.

Ryssdal: Well, I wasn't going to say that. What do you want to hear from the president when he gives his speech?

Damian: I want to hear some concrete change. I want to hear a plan because I still don't feel that I really heard a plan the last time he made his speech. And I have seen no change.

Ryssdal: Do you actually believe it's going to be different this time, that he's going to give you a speech that tells you what you want to hear?

Damian: Not at all. I'm not confident with it at all.

Ryssdal: You seem not positive, but not as far down in the dumps as I think I would be if I were in your situation.

Damian: I think I've had time to learn to contain it. But it's there.

Ryssdal: Jai Damian, thanks a lot.

Damian: Thank you.


Ryssdal: We're going to get Jai back in the studio tomorrow -- to see if she heard those concrete things she wanted to hear.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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