First, the good news:  America’s unemployment rate went from 7.9% in February to 7.7% this month, according to new Labor Department statistics released this morning.

The seal of the United States Department of Labor
The seal of the United States Department of Labor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, the bad news:  The number of long-term jobless — those who’ve been without a job for at least six months — is up to 4.8 million.  That represents 40.2% of America’s unemployed.

As time goes along, don’t be too surprised if that number gets higher in the coming months.

I made the announcement here last week that my own 16-month journey among those who are either unemployed or under-employed has come to an end, with a new job at a decent wage starting next week.  My own news was brightened by word that a friend of mine from the East Coast, Dominick — whose story I’ve featured here before a couple of times — had also been offered a good job doing what he was trained to do at about the same time as me.

Good things can happen with perseverance.

The news on the jobless rate comes out on International Women’s Day.  As I was scanning the information coming out on the unemployment numbers, I came across a story in The Huffington Post that mentions a woman named Lynn Ehrlicher from Atlanta, a 55-year-old former proofreader who’s worked part-time in an office and as a teacher who has been out of work for 15 months.

Ehrlicher’s story as related in HuffPo is one that too many people, both men and women, can relate to all too well these days as they struggle to survive.

“I realize that being an older worker, I’m unlikely to find employment at a level close to what I made just a few years ago, even though my skills are still intact,” Ehrlicher, 55, said in an email.

Poster for Women's Day, March 8, 1914

So Ehrlicher has looked for work that might be less than ideal, including a copy editor job more than an hour from her home.  She won an interview, and thought it had gone well.

“I thought I had the job.  I was really kind of looking for an acceptance on that because they were saying [things like], ‘When you start, when you start,’ and they gave me a tour of the office,” she said.

In a turn that shows just how picky employers can be when 12 million Americans are jobless, the company took someone who could do one thing Ehrlicher couldn’t.  “I wasn’t familiar with Quark,” she said, referring to a program that once dominated the market for page layout software but no longer does.

Ehrlicher feels a knot in her stomach when she gets out of bed in the morning.  The physical sensation is accompanied by dread and panic.

“There’s nothing to do. I don’t have a job to wake up to,” she said, describing how it feels.  “What is the point? What is the point of my life?”

On the bright side, Ehrlicher said the lack of work has given her time to focus on writing poetry and a memoir.

“That’s been kind of a relief valve. I’ve always wanted to write this book anyway,” she said.  “I have to do something because otherwise I’ll go crazy.”

English: International Women's Day 2009 in Bog...
English: International Women’s Day 2009 in Bogotá (Colombia). Deutsch: Internationaler Frauentag 2009 in Bogotá (Kolumbien). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The unemployment figures are a mixed bag.  A lack of action on jobs bills in Congress doesn’t help.  The sequestration nonsense going on in the capital only hurts more.

People like Lynn Ehrlicher who want to work go on with their lives the best they can, and they need to be recognized for that desire.  Whether it’s on International Women’s Day or any other day, they need to be recognized.

They need a sense of relief when it comes to finding a job, especially when they’re so close yet so far away.

Been there, lived through that.


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