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  • Unemployed?​—How to Cope with It
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    “MAN, I had to do it,” Leonard Harris told a television newsman in December. “My babies don’t have anything. There’s no food in the icebox.”

    Harris had been without steady work for six months, and so robbed the Northwestern Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I didn’t want him to do it,” his wife said. “It was something he felt he had to do for his family.”

    Unemployment can have serious consequences. Last year shoplifting skyrocketed, costing United States merchants some $5,000,000,000! And James Eichler of Burns International Security Services concluded: “With double-digit inflation and high

    unemployment , the stealing impulse is almost certain to become overwhelming with many more people.”

    How critical is unemployment ? Just how great are the problems of those who cannot find work?

    A Frightening Trend

    Ominously, unemployment figures rise. In October, 6 percent of the U.S. work force was jobless; November, 6.5 percent; December, 7.1 percent; and January, 8.2 percent.

    By early 1975, seven and a half million of the country’s workers were without jobs, an increase of two million jobless in three months! More people are now out of work than at any time since 1940, when the country was coming out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Sometimes layoffs by companies are wholesale and well publicized, such as in the auto industry.

    However, unemployment is affecting most businesses, including personnel at all levels. Even executives with salaries of $20,000 and up are, by twos and threes in all parts of the country, losing their jobs.

    Another significant factor is that the nation has never before experienced soaring inflation and, at the same time, high unemployment . So even persons with good jobs often have a hard time making ends meet. And, pointing to the dilemma, one of President Ford’s labor advisers noted: “The more successful we are in cooling inflation, the more likely we are to see unemployment moving higher.”

    Rising unemployment has resulted in fierce competition for the jobs available. “It’s a startling, frightening picture, with the haves pitted against the have-nots,” lamented William F. Haddad of the New York Board of Trade. College graduates, it was explained, are now competing with school dropouts and welfare recipients for the shrinking number of beginning-level jobs.

    Other countries are also affected by soaring unemployment . It is at its highest level since the 1930’s depression in Australia. France has more people out of work than at any time since World War II. Nearly 300,000 employees of the western European auto makers were jobless in December, and, since about one job in ten in Europe depends on the auto industry, the consequences are devastating.

    Unemployment was recently reported at 2.7 percent in Britain. However, that figure includes only full-time, primary earners who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, whereas in the U.S. the unemployment figure represents all persons seeking work but who cannot find it. So, actually, employment authority Raymond S. Livingstone claims,

    unemployment in Britain is worse than in the United States.

    What It Does to People

    While some who are unemployed may resort to stealing, there are other destructive effects. Often there is loss of confidence by the unemployed, as well as a feeling of helplessness and isolation. “Being out of work throws you,” noted a jobless New York city public-relations director. “I went through a couple of months of deep depression.” For fear of being laid off, a New York city worker on January 17 set himself ablaze at a busy street intersection. He had reportedly been despondent over the prospect of being unable to take care of his elderly mother.

    Jobless men are commonly observed literally to deteriorate, both physically and mentally. These effects were well illustrated during the Great Depression, when about 25 percent of the American work force was jobless.

    “The change in my father was heartbreaking,” recalls one man. “I saw him change from an optimistic, dynamic and proudly successful businessman to a shattered man overwhelmed by a sense of failure.” Another person, who grew up in North Dakota, painfully remembers: “The depression destroyed my father. . . . The strain broke his health. He died at an early age.”

    Today there is widespread fear that another destructive depression could be starting. The U.S. Labor Department announced that during Christmas week 813,600 more persons filed initial claims for unemployment insurance, the highest weekly total since such assistance was started in the latter part of the Great Depression.

    Society’s Efforts to Cope

    Evidently recognizing the scope of the problem, Labor Secretary Peter J. Brennan in January urged compassion and understanding for the growing millions of unemployed. He noted that many of these have never before “endured the tragedy of joblessness.”

    The tragedy, however, is considerably less than during the Great Depression, when many laid-off workers had fears of not having the next day’s food, or next month’s rent. Now a person can often obtain unemployment insurance, company benefits and, in cases of extreme need, welfare assistance. Last year, for example, an auto worker laid off by General Motors received 95 percent of his regular salary in company benefits and

    unemployment insurance for a period of eight months.

    But these benefits do not last forever. True, in the United States unemployment insurance has been extended up to 52 weeks, and pays a maximum of $95 a week. Also, new legislation signed in January provides $2,500,000,000 for some 330,000 public jobs, making it the largest federally funded jobs program since the Great Depression. Yet, as with

    unemployment benefits, these jobs are only for a limited period, until January 9, 1976.

    And as millions more persons become unemployed and draw benefits, the fear is that funds will be exhausted. Already a number of states have been forced to borrow from the federal government to make payments. And the federal government itself faces multi-billion-dollar deficits! These are indeed critical times, calling for prudent, level-headed thinking and actions.

    Things You Can Do

    If company or government assistance is available, it is proper that you seek it if you become unemployed and desire the assistance. Some companies will provide severance pay to workers they let go; you can check the possibility. Also, you may make sure that you receive any other company benefits to which laid-off employees may be entitled. And, of course, you can proceed immediately to the nearest State Unemployment Insurance Office and find out the

    unemployment benefits to which you are entitled.

    If laid off from work, promptly examine family finances and rework the budget. In fact, it may be wise for many families to do this in anticipation of such a crisis. How much will you be receiving from jobless benefits such as unemployment insurance? How long will these benefits last? Do you have savings? Is there a second car that you can sell?

    Now add up all your necessary expenses. How much do they come to, per week or per month? By cutting these expenses to the bone, and perhaps apportioning your savings or other assets, can you cover your monthly expenses? For how long? Some families may find that they cannot, even for a short time.

    So do not hesitate to investigate other assistance possibilities, urges university professor Dr. Joseph Petty. “Unfortunately,” he says, “too many working men and women feel that things like food stamps are charity rather than insurance. If you’ve been paying taxes to support these programs, now is the time to collect the benefits from them.”

    Work together in the crisis. Perhaps a wife, or even the children, can somehow contribute to the family in a financial way. “Until I landed a job,” a chemical engineer explained, “my daughters contributed half of their babysitting money to the family budget. They never felt so adult and important in their lives.”

    Beware of Dangers

    Unfortunately, however, unemployment often tears the family apart. Typically, the jobless husband grows irritable and withdrawn, even bitter. And under the strain the wife becomes critical and, perhaps unconsciously, manifests disrespect. Tensions grow. Thus, according to one source, three out of four persons who remain unemployed for at least nine months will face divorce proceedings!

    It has been found that men who cope best with being unemployed are those who feel that their families love them and that they are important to their families. So wives, give your husband support and encouragement. Show him that you respect him as much as ever.

    At the same time, the unemployed family head needs to act. “He should start looking for a job right away,” says Alfred Slote, a student of unemployment problems. He should recognize that job hunting is not easy, and should work as hard at it as at any other job that he has had. Suggestions on job hunting and possible types of employment will be subjects discussed in later issues of

    Awake!

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