The longer you’ve been out of a job, the harder it is to get one. That’s why New York’s City Council is trying to ban discrimination against the unemployed during hiring. Mayor Bloomberg opposes the effort, citing threat of lawsuits.
Still, people do make it out of long-term unemployment.
There are about 4.8 million long-term unemployed — people out of work 27 weeks or longer. Jason Grote was one of them. He was laid off from a job teaching English at Rutgers University in New Jersey in 2010, shortly before his son was born.
“It was extremely difficult,” he says. The family lived in Brooklyn then.
He says he spent a lot of time navigating New York’s public assistance system, trying to get the baby health insurance. He and his wife, a freelancer, ended up paying their son’s medical costs out-of-pocket. He says they were lucky to have a healthy child.
Months passed as Grote looked for work. By 2011, more than a quarter of successful job searches lasted six months or longer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We talked about the possibility of bankruptcy, although the majority of my wife’s and my debt is student loan debt, so it wouldn’t eliminate that,” he says. “We had a lot of conversations about what we would do in case things really didn’t pan out. But at the same time, I also did a lot of scrambling around to figure out a new way to make it work.”
Grote says having a child pushed him to get serious about, if not a career switch, a career shift. The English teacher and playwright decided to try TV. He asked friends for advice. After a year of unemployment, he got a made-for-TV break writing for the musical drama “Smash.”
“I felt just extraordinarily lucky. I felt just tremendous gratitude,” he says.
Today, Grote lives in California and he writes for “Mad Men.” He knows many of the long-term unemployed don’t get a Hollywood ending. Or even one that includes supporting their families.
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