54% of Households Have Someone Who's Been Without Work This Year

Apparently the recession is over, but it doesn't feel like it. People and companies are still hesitant to spend money as we are slow crawling out from under this heavy burden we've had for the last couple of years. The impact at the personal, family level has been severe. Everyone I know knows someone who has been laid off. Five years ago, getting laid off seemed to be something that happened to incompetents, or to those who worked at bad companies. In recent years, however, getting laid off might be considered in vogue.

Not that it is fun, but perhaps it is more acceptable to be "that person" who is out of work.

Let's put this stat, the one about 54% of households having someone who's been without work this year, into perspective. Imagine the street you live on. Pick a side of the street - either the side you live on, or your neighbors across the street. Now imagine all of the houses, townhouses, and apartments on that side of the street with one thing in common: they are out of work. Sure, maybe one of the two breadwinners is employed, but compared to last year, their income is down. They are getting stretched beyond their means and trying to figure out how to meet their financial obligations like they did last year. They might be looking at repossessions and foreclosures. They might be paying new fees with names like "overdraft," or they might have seen their credit card interest rate increase because of missed payments.

This new individual stress impacts marriages and families. Family stress impacts the neighborhood. Neighborhood stress impacts communities, cities, states, and eventually the country. We can't continue forward with 54% of households who are out of work, not unless there are other changes. I'm all for personal and family spending reform (that is, reform coming from personal and family decisions, not imposed by state or federal government). Maybe we can't have all the nice stuff we're used to, or we can't eat out as much as we'd like, or we can't save 100% of Junior's college bill. Maybe it is okay that our incomes have gone down, as long as we can adjust our expenses.

Or, we can just wait to see the economy get better and jobs come back, and get back into our normal lives and get closer to our normal income. I'm not sure what the government will eventually do to tackle this problem, or what the economy will do (or when it will do it!), but I do think we, individually, need to take personal action and responsibility to bridge the gap.

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