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Long-term unemployment gets...longer

Even as jobs are added in the U.S. economy, one problem seems intractable: long-term unemployment. Nearly 4.8 million people have been out of work for six months or more. 

Carlos Ramirez is one of them. He’s 24-years-old, and two months away from his last unemployment check.

“I’ve been unemployed since August 2012, I was a parking attendant,” he says at an employment center in the Bronx. 

He has a passion for cars  -- he works on his old Honda Civic when he can -- and he one day hopes to become a mechanic. But, as it is for so many people, he says, “It’s really hard to get a job right now. I haven’t gone to college yet cause I have to take care of my mother.”

Ramirez lives in a three-bedroom apartment with five family members. “It’s pretty stressful,” he says with a laugh.

Unemployment checks are what stand between a lot of people and financial ruin. Crystal Arroyo, a 25-year-old who used to work at a laundromat, received her last benefits payment two weeks ago.

“Now the bills that I do have,” she says, “they’re getting backed up. I’ve been borrowin’, my sister, my mother, my aunt and uncle -- anyone.”

One in five long term-unemployed people have at least a college degree. Akilah Matthews lost her job as an insurance analyst seven months ago. All her unemployment checks go to paying her student loans. She doesn’t go out much, a self described “homebody” now that she can’t afford to split a tab with friends.

But she’s optimistic about finding work because “as long as you keep believing, even in the downtimes that some kind of opportunity will present itself,” she says.

According to Matthews competition for every job is fierce. Figures show it’s taking longer and longer for the unemployed to find work. 

 

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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