The Pros and Cons of Being a Jobless Single Dad for 711 Days

BY Paul Solman  May 3, 2013 at 11:36 AM EST

By Paul Solman


More than 4 million Americans remain out of work for more than six months now. And for those 55 and older, it takes at least a year on average to find work, longer than any other age group. Fifty-five-year-old software developer Geoffrey Weglarz, who has been unemployed for two years, explains why being a jobless single dad can be a blessing, but a costly one.

There is no doubt: the economy is “recovering.” You see it in the GDP numbers, where growth has reached its long-term trendline: 2.5 percent. You see it in the housing market, characterized as “surging,” with prices up in every major city – on average, 9 percent higher than a year ago. You see it in the stock market, as high as its ever been.

With the release Friday of the job numbers for April, you see it in the unemployment numbers. For a change, both monthly surveys — of employers and of households — agree: the economy added at least 165,000 jobs last month and 114,000 more jobs than had previously been reported for February and March.

But then how is it, you may ask, that the official unemployment rate, known as “U-3″ in government parlance, barely budged and remains at 7.5 percent?

How is it that our own far more inclusive measure of unemployment and underemployment, the “U-7,” is down a tick but still weighs in at a whopping 16 percent?

U-7 includes everyone in the government’s U-3: everyone who said they wanted a job and had looked for one in the past 4 weeks. It also adds everyone who said they wanted one, hadn’t looked in the past 4 weeks, but had in the past year. (These people are included in the government’s most inclusive statistic, U-6). But we also add people who hadn’t looked in the past year but still said they wanted a job and would take one. Finally, we add people working part-time, but say they are looking for full-time work, like “consultants” I know, who may have worked only one hour in the week the government survey taker came calling, but are still tallied as officially “employed.”

Here is my Solman Scale breakdown of the numbers for April:

How can it be that, were we to compare today’s number to unemployment as reckoned in the past (by adding working age Americans who would probably be unemployed, but are instead drawing disability — more than 8 million, or in prison — more than 2 million) we would still be near historic post-World War II highs? (See our NewsHour report on the undercounting of unemployment).

How can it be that, that in a “recovery,” and by the narrowest (U-3) definition, 9 percent of Latinos, 13.2 percent of Afro-Americans, and 24 percent of teenagers are unemployed, meaning they looked for work in the past week but didn’t find even one hour’s worth?

How can it be, finally, that 4.4 million Americans continue to be out of work for 27 weeks or more and for those 55 or older, it takes a year, on average, to find a job?

That’s the topic of our segment on PBS NewsHour on the Friday evening broadcast as we introduce viewers to a range of capable, earnest and articulate older workers who simply haven’t been able to find a job. One of them, 55-year-old software developer Geoffrey Weglarz, who has now taught himself video production, has an especially poignant story to tell.

We met Weglarz at “The WorkPlace,” a cutting-edge job training center in Bridgeport, Conn. Weglarz told us he’d been unemployed for 711 days. How did he know the exact number? Turns out he keeps a spreadsheet tracking the 481 jobs he’s applied for in the last two years. In the top corner is a tally of the days since he lost his job in April 2011.

Weglarz spoke heartrendingly of the financial and emotional challenges of long-term unemployment, as you can see in the excerpt from our interview at the top of this post.

(We contacted Weglarz on Thursday to follow up and see if he had since gained employment. His response: “Still no job, but getting a little freelance video production work.”)

Tune in to PBS NewsHour on Friday for the full story. Watch a live stream of the broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on our Ustream channel or check your TV listings for your local PBS station’s schedule.


This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.