The nation’s lingering unemployment crisis has forced many people without work to dip into their savings, borrow from relatives and do without necessities including health insurance, and most people who receive unemployment benefits said that the money was not enough to meet their basic needs, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll of jobless Americans.
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Still, despite enduring hardships and being even more pessimistic about the nation’s economy than the general public, unemployed Americans remained optimistic about eventually landing jobs. A little more than half of those polled said they were either very or somewhatconfident they would find long-term employment in the next year, and a majority said they expected that when they did find permanent work, it would be at a similar or higher salary than they had received in the past.
But the poll found deep unease about unemployment benefits. At a moment when several states have decided to pay fewer weeks of benefits to save money, and President Obama has beenurging Republicans in Congress to renew a program — due to lapse at the end of the year — that pays federal jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed, 7 in 10 of those receiving unemployment benefits said that they feared their benefits would run out before they could find new jobs.
While jobless benefits have been criticized as unaffordable by some Republicans, particularly at the state level,three-quarters of the people receiving them said that they got “a lot less” than they used to earn at their jobs, and two-thirds said that the benefits were not enough to pay for basics like housing and food.
“I was earning $50,000 a year, and now I get $200 a week,” said Jan Thomas, 62, an unemployed marketing executive from Sarasota, Fla., who has been laid off from two jobs in the last threeyears. Ms. Thomas said in a follow-up interview to the poll that she recently dropped her health insurance “just hoping all will be well” and that she would soon lose her unemployment benefits, leading her to think about applying early for Social Security. “And I’m giving up my apartment and moving in with my mom because my unemployment will be running out,” she said.
The toll that unemployment istaking on families is not just financial, according to the telephone poll, which surveyed 445 unemployed adults from Oct. 19 to Oct. 25 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points. More than half of those polled said that they had experienced emotional or mental health problems like anxiety or depression because of their lack of work, and nearly half said that theyhad felt embarrassed or ashamed not to have jobs. More than a third said that they had had more conflicts or arguments with family and friends because of being jobless. The top reason people cited for not getting work: Too many applicants.
Threats of foreclosure or eviction were reported by a fifth of the unemployed, and one in eight said that they had moved in with relatives or friends. Morethan half said that they lacked health insurance. A fifth said that they had received food from a nonprofit organization. And in a sign that the nation’s current economic woes could reverberate for years, nearly two-thirds said they would probably not have enough money to live comfortably during retirement. More than half said that they had taken money out of savings or retirement accounts.
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