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Long Term Unemployment In My Family

August 11, 2010

In the last 2 years, my dad has worked about 6-7 months.  After 30+ years in the field, for the first time in his life, my dad been collecting unemployment.

As a personal finances blogger, it is kind of surprising I haven’t talked about this yet, but at the same time, I’m protective of my family and I am not interested in having strangers judge them. (S0, please don’t.)

My dad is an electrician, mostly within the construction industry, which you might have heard is experiencing unemployment levels of 25% or more, triple the overall employment rate.   He’s willing to travel to work.  The last two jobs he had were both about 4 hours from our hometown (where my mom lived without him), and he stayed with relatives while he worked.  But he’s willing to travel farther – to Alaska, to California, to Vegas… wherever they need him.  The trouble is, if you are coming in as a traveler, you get in line behind the local people, and it is a long line right now.

When he’s had work, he worked hard:  6-7 days a week, 10 hours or more a day.  This also means that he’s earned wages much more than 6-7 months worth, which certainly helps things.  But eventually, the jobs ended, and he’s back to waiting, to looking.

Since things really have not improving, he’s naturally looking at his long term options.  He could go back into contracting for himself.  He thinks their will be work in a certain region/area long term (but there isn’t right now), so he could wait for that to start up.  He is looking into getting his commercial drivers license to make him eligible for specific electrical jobs which require it.  He’s talked about being a lineman, even though that is typically done by people with less experience, it pays well enough.  He has taken a couple classes and picked up certifications here and there. Something totally outside the field is undesirable at this point, and what should he be studying anyway?  Where are those booming industries?  He has roughly 10 years left before he can consider retirement, and while he never expected to be facing these kinds of decisions, he is.

My parents as a unit are doing ok.  My mom is working full time, the house is close to paid off, and they seem to be making it through.  I think they would be fine on her salary alone.  But still.  It makes me sad that as they approach their golden years and us kids have gotten out of their hair, things haven’t necessarily gotten easier.   I have hope they will get better, but this recession has definitely hit them hard.

I don’t know what else to say about this, but I just wanted to share.  It makes me mad when people say that unemployment compensation gives workers less incentive to seek work.  Or that they just don’t want to work hard.  Or that they just want a job exactly like the one they were let go from.  Maybe that is true in some cases, but every unemployed person I’ve talked to would much much rather be working.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2010 6:40 am

    My household can definitely relate to this situation. These are terrible times for all contractors. Each month we make it through I am filled with eternal graditude, but it is only a matter of time before the bottom falls out. Thank goodness your mom is working or where would they be?

  2. August 11, 2010 7:15 am

    My uncle is an electrician, and he was out of work for 7 months before he finally got a contract again. Who knows how long the contract will last, and what will happen once it does?

    The only people who usually complain about unemployment benefits are people who have never been unemployed (sort of how people who complain about not needing national healthcare are people who have never been without insurance).

    Best of luck to your dad!

  3. Sara permalink
    August 11, 2010 8:48 am

    You make great points! I agree that it’s sad to see people so constantly arguing that the unemployed are just lazy. MAYBE you could make that argument when we have a great economy and unemployment is very low, but right now?! PFFFT. There’s way too many unemployed people to say they’re just lazy or not looking, and a lot of them are people who like your dad have put in DECADES at their jobs only to now be forced into looking for a new career in upper middle age. I sympathize with your family (and all of the other families going through similar issues) and I hope his determination is what gets him by.

  4. August 11, 2010 9:35 am

    My husband is also an electrician. Since I’ve known him (almost five years), he’s maybe worked as an electrician a total of nine months. In between, he makes it work with temp warehouse jobs, odd jobs, and now a job at a convenience store (which is fortunately a non-temp job that he likes, but unfortunately pays about a third of an electrician job and has no benefits). I’m with you — often people don’t want to collect unemployment, but really there are often no other options. Even seasonal warehouse jobs have huge lines of applicants.

  5. August 11, 2010 10:06 am

    It makes me mad too because it’s so hard to find a job right now for alot of people that are good at what they do. My friend was getting so bored at home and desperate that he tried to work at McDonalds and they told him he was over qualified. Really?

  6. August 11, 2010 4:11 pm

    It’s tough. I’m so sorry – it’s so hard right now, and it doesn’t seem to be easing.

    It was hard for me to see T getting practically nothing in unemployment. But at the same time, so many people we knew – people who DIDN’T want to work with no work ethic and who didn’t care about finding a job – were getting just as much (if not more, as we were classed as a couple) and were happy to sit on their asses. It just seemed so ridiculous that there was no way to distinguish between the benefit-for-lifers, and the rest of us.

    • August 13, 2010 7:55 am

      So does how much unemployment he got depend on his living situation/needs? how is it determined

  7. August 11, 2010 6:12 pm

    I get exactly what you’re saying. As a matter of policy, unemployment benefits are smart because unemployed people tend to spend all the money they are given. As with all programs, there may be some people who take advantage of them, but I don’t think the vast majority of recipients are in that camp. Unemployment insurance took financial worries off of my mind and gave me the freedom to find a comparable position, and for that I am very thankful. UI is an important safety net for a lot of people.

  8. August 11, 2010 9:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry 😦 It’s like the honest, hard working people don’t even stand a chance anymore in this economy. What makes me mad is that I know people my age who are taking advantage of this time, have been unemployed for almost 2 years, and haven’t made any effort to find a new job because they’re not sure what they want to do. (And I know, because this person is a friend of mine).

    I hope that something opens up for your dad.

    • August 13, 2010 7:54 am

      I know there are some people like that (and they do generally seem to be younger, our age). But i know soooo many more that just wish there was work!

      Thanks for the kind words!

  9. August 12, 2010 9:21 pm

    We can relate in our family. My dad’s been out of work for two years, even though he’s been doing things here and there to try and keep afloat. It’s tough, and he’s now considering an opportunity across the country….just to be able to do SOMETHING. It pains me to see my parents struggling, and even more to know that they’re worried about me on top of that. I wish your dad the best….hopefully things will pick up soon.

    • August 13, 2010 7:53 am

      Same to you and your dad. It is tough in this economy 😦

  10. August 13, 2010 3:34 pm

    I’m not sure what state your parents are in. But I’m an entertainment electrician in New York. Meaning I wire, electrify, automate, scenery for Broadway. I know that most states, have scene shops, and lighting shops, and I know at least at ours we WELCOME licensed electricians. Vegas is good for this too. If you can give me an idea of what the closest metropolitan area is, I might be able to suggest a place.

    I know its not exactly what he’s used to, but its still electrics!

  11. August 16, 2010 10:34 am

    It makes me mad too. With unemployment rates as high as they are, it’s ridiculous.

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