The Grinch That Stole Christmas

150,000 ‘non-farm’ private sector jobs were added in October, a better than expected number. And new claims for unemployment fell 24,000 last week to 435,000. Consumers seem a bit more optimistic with the consumer sentiment index rising to a 5-month high of 69.3 and retail sales rising 1.2% in October. So, it’s all good, right? The recession is over and economy is surely recovering. It’s enough to make an unemployed mom of four to start feeling positive about her hopes of finding a job!

It did until I compared the number of new jobs in October with the number of my unemployed and under employed competitors for those jobs. Nearly 15 million Americans are out of work, and another 9 million are under-employed. And I’m one of those poor stiffs who fall into that category known as the long-term unemployed. NPR is highlighting this sorry group of 6 million in a series this week and in the first two stories they have focused on the ‘loss of human capital’ and have glumly forecast the atrophy and erosion of the unemployed workers’ skills. Thanks guys – you make it sound like we aren’t worth rehiring if we are out of work for 6 months.

To be fair, it isn’t just NPR that is sounding this storyline – other news outlets frequently use words like obsolete when talking about the long-term unemployed. The New York Times calls the outlook for the long-term unemployed bleak and an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that employers are openly shunning job seekers out of work for more than 6 months. Yep, stating right up front in the ad – don’t apply if you haven’t worked in 2009!

But we have more to worry about – namely unemployment benefits. The extended unemployment benefits that were first put in place in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will expire at the end of November. Benefits for the newly unemployed will revert to the 26 weeks most states allowed before ARRA and the rest of us, no job in sight, will be enjoying our holidays at the soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The National Employment Law Project says two million people will stop getting benefit checks by December 30th if the program is not renewed.

Before you protest that extending the benefits will just further burden the country with an increasing deficit consider this note from the

The progressive Economic Policy Institute estimates that reauthorizing the benefits for a full year would cost $65
billion  –  about the same cost as extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans for the same time period. EPI also projects that extending unemployment benefits would create more than 700,000 jobs.

As an article in the Center for American Progress website states, “Unemployment benefits kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009, and they enable those out of work to keep putting food on the table and pay their bills.” And that shopping and bill paying helps the economy in its shaky progress on the road to recovery. Economists estimate that the economy grows by $1.61 for every dollar spent on unemployment benefits because recipients typically spend all of their benefit payments quickly.

The optimism brought about by the October job numbers feels more like panic now. California’s unemployment rate is 12.4%. There’s been no response from any of the applications I’ve sent in for positions in my field and the ads in the local paper are mostly for part-time or holiday help, wages in the $8 to $10 range, nights and weekend hours required. Regardless applicants are flooding these employers with resumes.

I’ve put in a volunteer application for the local Scholastic Book Fair in December – 8 hours of work will earn me $80 worth of books – Christmas presents for the kids. Even this job is competitive – the small print at the bottom of the applications warns that not everyone who applies to be a volunteer will be selected. For the kids’ sake I hope they pick me.

If you’d like to learn more about the unemployment benefits and the looming expiration, please visit and read the blog post Out in the Cold for the Holidays.

This entry was posted in job search, recession, tax cuts, unemployment benefits and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Grinch That Stole Christmas

  1. Jeannette says:

    Haven’t replied in a while, I myself have been working three jobs to maintain our living expenses. My Husband has been out of work since July, he is union and there are 345 on the list waiting for work. My son just told me (who has been looking for work since September) for every job available there are at least 200 applying, some applying for an $8.00 an hour job. Getting hired is like being a needle in a haystack.. This includes temporary Christmas jobs, most places you can only apply online, good luck with that…you don’t even know half the time what the job is your applying for. I live in NJ so our state isn’t any better
    I am a licensed Realtor and I have shown more people rentals in the past year than any year ever. AND more people getting denied the rental due to lack of work, lack of decent credit and lack of money. I often wondered, do you have any family that you can move in with.
    Praying something changes soon for everyone that is having financial problems

  2. Tiffany says:

    I forgot to also mention Boys and Girls Clubs of America as a possible solution for child care. The clubs often offer tutoring help too. Some schools even provide a free bus to the Boys and Girls Club after school. They have fun activities for children of all ages and older teens can gain valuable job experience volunteering at the club. One of the families at the soup kitchen I volunteer at has been using their services and has been very pleased. The free tutoring has helped their 7 year old son get ahead in school and the activities have kept their teen daughter out of trouble and on the path towards a future job in early childhood education.

    The suggestion of a move out of state was also a good one. California is one of the more costly states for rent in USA. If you can find a $30 an hour job, the high rent is acceptable, but if you’re looking at $8 an hour jobs, CA isn’t a good place to be. The trailer money might be able to make a decent sized down payment on a house in a different state. The mortgage payments would probably be less than you pay in trailer park rent. Plus it would be safer and give you more space.

    $319 billion has been spent on jobless benefits are the past 3 years (, so extending unemployment benefits is very unlikely. I’d start planning to save as much as you can from your checks by doing the food stamp application now.

    • boxcarkids says:

      I haven’t gotten a check since October so there’s nothing to save from. I think people overlook the cost of moving, and the cost of winter (utilities, winter clothing, etc) in those cheaper states. Our trailer is not equiped for winter weather – no insulation at all. I wish everyone would read some of the stories at before deciding that the unemployed are just too lazy to work or to arrogant to take a lower paying job. I’ve applied for tutor positions, packing positions, holiday help, waitress, etc. I haven’t been offered any of those jobs so I haven’t even had the chance to turn one down. Read the stories – you will see that millions of people are in a similar situation – looking, applying, hearing that they are too old, too experienced, out of work too long to be hired. Like one fellow said its as if everyone wants us to just walk out on the ice floe and end it!

      • Linda says:

        I know you’re enormously frustrated and I guess you have every right to be defensive. I don’t read these comments as people saying you’re lazy or arrogant. I hear people pouring out ideas to you trying to help you. I hear people stating the likely reality–that benefits will not be extended. To me it’s brainstorming. True, in your usual thoughtful way, many of them are ideas that you’ve already considered and rejected. But they may not know that. I guess I hear people saying DO SOMETHING and you’re sitting there thinking I AM DOING SOMETHING!! But truthfully, for things to improve something has got to change. And if every idea is rejected, then nothing will. You know as well as they do that you can’t just sit around and wait for a job to be presented to you. I’m so sorry you’re in this difficult position.

      • boxcarkids says:

        But I’m not just sitting around – nor have I been from the beginning. Something does have to change but I think the SOMETHING is beyond me (and the MILLIONS of other unemployed) – the economy has to change. I do appreciate all suggestions, although as you mention I have thought through a lot of these. For instance the local boys and girls club has a very long waiting list – no spots available (plus one of their van drivers with 6 kids recently was involved in an accident that sent several kids to the hospital) so they aren’t an option.
        If I had a job offer that required me to move out of California I would take it. But I won’t move to someplace where we know no one, have no moral or other support, pull up what little roots we have and disrupt the kids lives again, start all over in whatever support programs we’d have to sign up for and so on, without that job offer. Moving your family is VERY expensive. I know because I’ve moved from Hawaii to California to Colorado and back to California. Even without a household worth of furnishings it is expensive. I don’t think people understand just how hard this is and how much harder it would be if we had to move to a foreign place. I pretty much do this on my own but we do have friends I can turn to if the burden gets too overwhelming. In fact we are having Thanksgiving dinner with some of them!

      • Excuse me, but I really don’t think anyone has said you are arrogant or lazy. A lot of people feel for you and your family and are trying to offer suggestions to help you out. Will all the suggestions be feasible? No. But hopefully some of them can help you out. This recession has hit everyone hard, just in different ways. If you don’t want advice, then perhaps you should add a disclaimer at the bottom of all your posts so people don’t waste their time caring and worrying about your situation.

      • boxcarkids says:

        I’m obviously not writing as well as I could be. I’m reacting to what seems to be the general sentiment about the unemployed at large. I spend a lot of time looking at news and blogs on the subject – and there seems to be a strong belief that we could all get jobs if we wanted to, or were willing to ‘take any old job.’ And some people have essentially said that here – “you need to take a job out of your field or take an $8 job”. I’d like people to understand that most of the unemployed really, really want to work, and are looking very hard for jobs, but there aren’t jobs to be found. Yes, people are hiring – lately I’ve seen a lot of ads for temporary holiday help – and I’ve applied for numerous positions but so have hundreds of other people. The poinsettia packing plant was flooded with resumes and hired mostly young guys (from what I’ve heard from someone who was hired). Some employers are actively discriminating against people who are unemployed or who are older. Some positions I just cannot fill as I don’t have the skills or experience (massage therapist, dental assistant, sheet metal mechanic, tax accountant, RN, etc.,). That why I suggested reading some of the stories on the other website – there are so many skilled, experienced, hard workers out there who want to work, are looking, and aren’t being hired. The recession may be over but the jobs aren’t back to a level where we can all have one! I do appreciate my readers and appologize if anyone feels attacked. I’m tired. This has been a very long difficult situation and instead of getting better it’s getting worse. I try to be upbeat on this blog but it’s not easy now.

      • Brandon says:

        You do have to admit though that a lot of workers have a negative incentive to find lower paying work if they are still getting an unemployment check that pays a similar amount to what the new work would bring in.

  3. You may not like this advice, but I really think you should consider moving out of California. You live in a VERY expensive area. In fact, your rent for the parking spot at the RV Park is more than my mortgage (excluding taxes)! And if low paying jobs start around $8 an hour it sounds like the pay scale is no better in California than it is anywhere else. Things are tough everywhere so moving might not help you find a job sooner, but it could possibly help cut down some of your expenses. The cost of living in the Midwest is MUCH lower than it is on the west coast. In the Midwest (Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, etc.) you could easily pay rent in an RV park and pay for after-school child care (some schools offer it for free even) for what you are paying now just for rent. That could allow you to take a lower-paying job to get your foot in the door someplace. Just a thought….

    Your situation is tough and could happen to anyone. I have a couple friends who both lost their jobs at the beginning of the recession and had no luck finding new employment in their fields despite a dedicated job search on their parts. The one has decided to go back to school to go into the growing medical billing field. The other started a child-care business out of her home and is doing well. Both of these new job endeavors are ‘below’ (for lack of a better term) their previous employment but both knew they had to do something or else they would be out of money. Sadly, this is the reality for many, many people.

    Don’t count on unemployment to be extended again. It is meant to be a temporary fix. Even if it is extended, it will be a temporary fix with an ent at some point in time.

  4. Penny says:

    Not really getting into the unemployment thing, but – do you have an Amazon wishlist set up? You can do individual ones for yourself and each child, or perhaps mark who wishes for what – I, for one, would much rather contribute to the Christmas of someone I “know” (or read online) than a random named pulled off the Salvation Army tree.

  5. Nancy says:

    You are going to have to prepare as if the extension is not going to happen (because I don’t think it will). There just isn’t enough money for every program to be extended. You say that the 65 billion can come from the highest 2% of tax payers, but that money has been spent/promised 10 times over and I think the tax cuts will be extended for at least 2 years, so that money won’t exist anyway. They did not extend the COBRA tax credit, the first time home buyer credit or several others that expired. The money just isn’t there.

    I was unemployed for the last 2 years and was lucky to get a good paying, but temporary, job which required a move. It was not what I wanted to do, but what I needed to do to support my family. The taxes are killing me, and honestly if they don’t pass the middle class tax breaks I don’t know how I’ll make it, so I don’t support passing any extensions. My kids will get very little for Christmas because I have debt to pay off, and they don’t need it. One will get a sports camp that she wants and the other has agreed to nothing because of a trip she’s taking for Thanksgiving.

    I know you’d rather have unemployment than all the other forms of help out there, but you’d get a lot more if you received food stamps and TANF. You’d also get after school daycare help, a stipend for gas and clothes to look for work, help with your job search, special programs for your kids, medical and dental care for your entire family, utilities help. Yes, you have less control over your money and that would be very hard, but in the end you get more. You can earn money and it is not a dollar for dollar deduction.

    By your math, just to survive you need to have a job that pays about $30/hr. Is that realistic in your market?

    You really need to apply for food stamps. With 3 kids, I think you would get over $700/mo. That is a lot of money for food. You can use what you need and roll over the rest. It could last for years if you also use coupons, specials, and shop wisely (which I’m sure you already do). It’s a federal program, so even if you do move to another state you can take the benefits with you (unlike other benefits)

    You do a lot of juggling and scrimping, but I’m sure you never thought this situation would last this long. I sure didn’t think I would be unemployed so long and I wish I wouldn’t have lived on credit so long (I was always sure something would change by NEXT month, and when it didn’t I’d charge another month of rent, food, expenses), and now of course I wish I’d applied for more help when I needed it. Right now, every paycheck I get has to pay for this month and a month from last year, and it’s no fun to go to work all the time and have nothing to show for it!

    Also, because we had to move I got rid of almost everything we owned. Kids don’t need many toys or clothes. I’m now anti-shopping and buy only what we need. My kids wear uniforms and I’m thrilled about that. Out went towels and sheets and dishes and knick knacks and clothes and clothes and clothes and clothes. Even a lot of books went and I’m committed to purging the photos down to a tenth of what we have now. My only regret was ever gathering that much stuff to begin with. Hundreds of stuffed animals, anyone?

    Good luck. You can do it but you have to start somewhere, and I really suggest it be with food stamps and other social services. Hard hard hard, I know, but necessary.

  6. Becky R says:

    I so get about the childcare. Having a special needs child who is 12, it is very hard to find childcare as most programs (after school, etc) age out at 6th grade (he is 7th.) I also have my youngest. So whenever I do the math, working full time at $8 an hour and paying before and after care gets me about $800 a month. This will only cover my mortgage, taxes, and that is it. How do I pay utilities, car insurance, get gas for car, buy food, etc.?

    I have started a cleaning business. I have 2 clients who each pay me $60. My goal is 5 clients at $60 each a week. This takes me 2-3 hours to do. So I will get $300 a week and do not need any childcare. Plus I get certain tax deductions for being self employed (but also have to pay my own social security and medicare taxes that most employers pay half of.)
    This way I will make $1,000-$1,200 a month.
    I can tithe, pay my takes $400, pay my mortgage $400, pay my car insurance $100, pay my gas bill $100, pay my electric bill $90. My child support of $400 a month will buy gas for car, food, and pay my homeowner’s insurance.
    My Sat. night babysitting job ($120 a month) pays for misc., gifts, medicines and such.
    I have to pray my car doesn’t break down or I have no other emergencies. But at least all bills will get paid and I still have plenty of time to be with my boys. And I take Sundays off (we go to church and have family time.)

    It is tough!

    I have never gotten unemployment because I have been self employed (I did daycare in my home and nannying in another’s home), but I am sure the benefits are helpful.

  7. Tiffany says:

    This really highlights the need for people to donate to local toy drives this year. Warm winter coats are also needed, especially for those in cold areas. Many are still unemployed, losing or have lost benefits, or are working in low wage jobs, so a lot of Christmas help might be needed this year.

    For families needing Christmas help, please remember to ask around early. It really helps out the local churches and charities if they can get an early count of how many toys will be needed (and also the ages of the children). Don’t forget mention clothing sizes too. Many churches try to give a bit of clothing with the toys.

    Extending unemployment benefits will help some in the short term, but I don’t think it’s a good long term solution. A lot of the taxes are paid by the middle class, not the wealthy, so spending $65 billion is going to fall on the shoulders of people who are already struggling. Many of the middle class have relatives living with them or are supporting relatives. Many are helping out struggling charities to ensure that families are fed and that local children have clothes and school supplies. Many of the middle class also took pay cuts over the past few years. Once the $65 billion runs out in a year, what then? Ending it now will push people to find long term solutions, even if that means that the state needs to pay for welfare programs for some.

    My advice would be to apply for welfare and food stamps now. There will be a crush of people applying for these services if unemployment isn’t extended, so it’s better to apply now. Getting the food stamps before your benefits run out will allow you to save some cash. Finding a job that will pay enough to get day care for 4 children will be difficult. Welfare would allow you to volunteer in your field of work while raising your family. A few years down the road you might find a job in your field through your volunteer work. If you can’t volunteer in your career field, you might try volunteering in education. So many schools need our help these days and who knows it might also led to a job in the future.

  8. Brandon says:

    I am going to try to be gentle here and not “troll”. I appreciate your story and I pray that God blesses you with the opportunities that you are hoping for. Also, keep in mind this is just my opinion and is unsolicited advice. Take it for whatever it is worth.

    I can never agree with your stance here on unemployment. It has been very gracious of the government to give you extended benefits for a program that is intended to just help you bridge the gap and get back on your feet. That is the condition for which employers paid unemployment insurance costs to fund the program, but it is not the way that your family or others are taking advantage of it today. I am sorry that you have been unable to find a job, but it is time to move on. You are going to have to bite the bullet and get on a more long term welfare program (if you are not already on one), try to hit up a soup kitchen or church, or simply bite the bullet and take a crappy $8 an hour job and work your ass off while your oldest watches the younger kids.

    Also, you have touched on it before, but really, you need to just give up on your dream of going back to work in your field for now.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Sweetie – I have/am applying. I haven’t been offered a crappy $8 an hour job yet. And my oldest isn’t old enough to drive and gets out of her school at a later time than the younger ones. It’s too far for them to walk home. After school care runs $130 a week for the 2 younger ones. If I worked 40 hours a week at an $8 job, after taxes and deductions and childcare I would have $110. That leaves me $300 short for rent, never mind utilities, food, gas, car insurance….

      • Brandon says:

        They don’t have buses in California?

      • boxcarkids says:

        Yes. The one that goes by my 8th grader’s school runs once an hour and leaves 5 minutes before she gets out of school. It takes her to a central bus stop where she waits another 45 minutes for a 2nd bus that will get her within 6 blocks of our home. In the morning it would take her almost 2 hours to get to school and she would either arrive 45 minutes early (leaving at 6:15 AM) before she is allowed on campus, or 15 minutes late which would be marked as tardy. After 10 tardies she would be considered a truant.

  9. Lynn says:

    These figures are so frightening. I wish the government would start a program where people could work at projects for the public good. (Was the WPA like that, during the depression?) Heaven knows we as a society have plenty of needs and all would benefit in so many ways. Here in California, our schools are failing…you would qualify to be a teacher but schools are cutting back…but why not pay you, and others similarly qualified, to work in the schools? The schools need the help and you need work. There is a ton of “deferrred maintenance” on publicly owned properties…others could be painting, doing repairs, landscaping…construction has been hard hit. Maybe a team of contractors could be replacing the 40 year old “temporary” buildings that are on most of the local school campuses. This demoralizing waste of talent and energy is beyond sad and into outrageous.

  10. Brenda says:

    My family is young, and we struggled through a very hard time. When I was 7.5 months pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy, my husband lost his job and I became the sole source of income and insurance.

    My company’s insurance benefits were so bad that we ended up paying over $10,000 out of pocket for my daughter’s birth. It was a really hard time for us.

    But we were blessed that my husband was able to be a stay-at-home-dad for the first year of his life. And we were blessed that when my daughter turned 15 months old, he was able to find temporary employment (which he still has 6 months later).

    Things are certainly not great for us financially, but I would like very much to help a little with your Christmas. Are there any items the kids or you would like?

    I am trying to teach our daughter the importance of giving to others – last year we sent packages to military in Afghanistan. This year – your story speaks to me and I would like very much to help if I can.

    Please send me an email and let me know if there is anything I can send your way to help brighten your Christmas.

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