Faces of the unemployed: Two years and still looking

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After a little more than two years of looking for a full-time job, Doug Neeper of Walnut Creek, CA., is being more frugal than ever before.

A former executive in financial planning and analysis who is slowly seeing his savings evaporate, Neeper and his wife -- who was laid off in March -- have changed their cable company to save money, got rid of a housekeeper who came twice a month, laid off the gardener, cut a newspaper subscription and have kept daily records of where their money goes.

"We're much more frugal than we ever were," Neeper said in an interview. "Shame on us. Hopefully that will continue when we're fully employed."

Neeper is one of the many underemployed across the country, a growing pool of people who are either working part-time and seek full-time work, or have given up in their job search. Their numbers aren't reflected in the government's unemployment figures, but show a deeper recession than is reported.

In California the unemployment rate is 11%, but a New York Times analysis of the broader definition of joblessness shows it at 20%, when part-time workers who want to work full-time and people who have stopped looking for jobs are included.

Here's a video interview I did with Neeper:

Part-time consulting jobs, lasting from a few weeks to a few months, have kept him afloat and allowed his unemployment benefits to continue. Just last week he filed for a federal extension of the benefits.

What has also helped is that the federal government has enabled the unemployed to get health care costs lowered, Neeper said, although more could be done to get federal stimulus dollars into local economies.

Probably one of Neeper's best traits in his job hunt since being laid off in June 2007 as a director of financial planning and analysis, is his ability to meet people and make contacts. He's been involved in Job Connections, a networking group in nearby Danville, for six years. He also has about 7,500 contacts that he's collected during the past eight years, and reaches out to them often for job leads.

In the past two years of his job search, Neeper said that he's noticed it has become more difficult lately to find any companies hiring. Like many applicants, he's lost jobs to internal candidates or had positions pulled because employers decided not to fill them.

"The hardest part for me has been finding situations where people will at least interview you and give you a shot," he said.
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