Holidays Are Worst For the Jobless

It’s holiday time! As the days get shorter and the holiday festivities begin in full-scale, it should be a time for happiness, reflection, and appreciation. For many, however, the New Year will not be a chance for renewal; instead, it will be a battle of survival. The holidays always seem to be a time when most people are faced with unemployment. As the Christmas music reaches an abrasive cacophony and the end of 2011 lays just ahead, the hopeful encouragement of a better economy comes with the harsh realization that the job situation is still not adequate. In fact, 2011 is already seeing more layoffs than last year.

For those pessimists who ignored the government's irreverent banality about an improved situation, you were right. Not only are more people facing joblessness, but employers seem to have no qualms about letting people go during the most stressful time of year – the holiday season. Surprisingly, the fourth quarter comprises 25% of layoff notices for the whole year and 31% of released employees receive their notice during the last two months of the year. For companies who need to trim their payroll before the start of the 2012, a no mercy rule has garnered effect, leaving many with a distressed and strenuous holiday season. 

Most layoffs for 2011 have come from government jobs, with an unexpected 44% of cuts coming from the government sector. The next two tremulous areas are finance and retail. Unfortunately, help is not in sight due to stingy unemployment benefits and jobless compensation. The average weekly amount of benefits is a mere $300 a week, and the amount varies by state. Those living in Mississippi expect to receive only around $190 a week, compared to the $384 a week you could receive in Washington State. Has any lawmaker ever tried to live off $300 a week? That amount is paltry, especially if you have a family.

Furthermore, state benefits only run for a designated duration and once these resources have been tapped, the unemployed have to turn to ever-shrinking federal benefits. If you are part of the unlucky majority unable to get re-employed, expect to see your benefits shrink. Not unsurprisingly, Republicans want the American public to believe that we cannot afford these horrendously low benefits. Their mantra claims that extended benefits disincline people to seek meaningful employment.

This type of thinking is mistaken: Hiring has become selective due to an influx of applications for a limited market of open positions, not because the unemployed are lazy or afflicted with personal issues like drugs. Curtailing unemployment benefits could not come at a worse time. Hiring has not rebounded, and as more people lose their jobs, desperation with no recourse will hit those already in dire situations. The 2011 layoffs will worsen this situation; labor statistics show that if all job openings in America were filled tomorrow, nearly 10 million people would still be unemployed.

As the wishes for a very happy holiday season begin to pour in, for many the 2011 holiday festivities will be tainted with an uncertain future and no employment in sight. To give everyone a small and modest present, Congress needs to renew and rescale the unemployment benefits so they adequately reflect the dire situation.

Photo Credit: eric721

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Elizabeth Elfman

Elizabeth is currently exploring health policy directly related to the expanding field of health technology. Through her work she is able to assess healthcare at both the national and federal level. Her political interests also include women's rights and international diplomacy. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she obtained a degree in political science and communication public service. She has been published in Boston Magazine and the Philadelphia Daily News.

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