What has happened to workers who lost their jobs during the recession?

After last week’s employment numbers, Administration reps emphasized that over 12 million jobs have been added … recovering the number of jobs lost, plus a few to spare.

Predictably, conservative pundits countered that that the “mix” of jobs has deteriorated … well-paying full-time jobs have been replaced with lower paying full-time jobs and involuntary part-time jobs … with many of the added jobs going to immigrants – some legal, some not.



Coincidentally, I started reading a book titled Working Scared (Or Not at All) … about the plight of the American worker … both old-timers who worked hard and played by the rules and newbies who are graduating with high college debt and disappointing career prospects.

The authors cut to the chase by researching the core issue: have the workers who lost their jobs bounced back?


From Working Scared (Or Not at All): The Lost Decade, Great Recession, and Restoring the Shattered American Dream

One of the groups investigated for the book  Working Scared  is comprised of the “15million American workers were laid off from their jobs between 2007 and 2010 … most of whom lost their jobs suddenly and without warning.”

Among recession-era workers who lost their jobs, researchers found the following:

First, the stark jobs’ numbers …

1 in 3 (33%) was still unemployed and looking for work.

Among those who remained jobless, fully half had been seeking work for more than two years.

Just over 1 in 4 (25%) had found a full-time job.

1 in 12 (8%) were working part-time and looking for full-time jobs.

17%  were out of the labor market entirely because they had given up looking, had retired, or were enrolled in school.

17 % were working part-time, not looking for full-time work or self-employed


More poignant,  the researchers estimated how much progress those who lost their jobs made in returning to where they were before the rug was pulled out from under them.

Only 7 percent could be considered to have “made it back.” They are in good financial shape and have not suffered a decline in living standards.

Another 23 percent believe they are on “their way back” because their standard of living changed only in a minor way or temporarily.

Those are the bounce-backs, other American workers have been much less fortunate.

One in three was “downsized” by the recession. Their standard of living declined, but many believe the changes are minor and temporary.

But, the remaining 36 percent experienced cataclysmic effects from the Great Recession.

(Of those) we classified 21 percent as “devastated” because they are in poor financial shape and have suffered major quality of life changes, even though some expect that these are temporary.

A sizable 15 percent who seemed to have been “totally wrecked” by their experiences during and after the recession. Their finances are in poor condition, and they have suffered major, permanent lifestyle changes.


So, less than 1 in 10 are “back” … 1 in 3 are either “devastated” or “totally wrecked” … and about half think they’ll be close to being “back” eventually.

These were workers who played by the rules, not slackers … so, it’s easy to imagine why they’re a bit angry these days.


Thanks to MES for feeding the lead on the book.

More from Working Scared tomorrow…



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