"More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don't have jobs—a total of 10.4 million." That portion of the male population has almost tripled in the past 40 years. What is life like for these unemployed men? Let's hear from a few of them.
We've pulled a few emails from our folder of unpublished "Unemployment Stories." These stories are individual, not definitive. They provide a glimpse into the experience of long-term unemployment during what should be the most lucrative period of a man's career.
No more tears
I'm a 52 year old man and I just celebrated my 6th year of unemployment. 6 years. Can you believe that? I can't. It blows my mind. It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.
I moved out on my own right after I graduated from college the first time at the age of 22. And, except for an odd month here and there, continued to live on my own for the next 24 years. It was a good run. It's more than what some people get and I am thankful for it. So when I got canned from my last job at age 46, I wasn't terribly concerned or worried. I've been unemployed before. And I always found work again in a short time. And I live in a "right-to-work" state where the boss can fire you for no reason at all. While getting fired is never good, it doesn't carry quite the stigma in right-to-work states that it does in others. Lots of people have been fired here for totally frivolous reasons.
I have 2 Bachelor of Science degrees; one in computer science and one in health care administration. Add to that years of talent, skills and experience in a multitude of different positions. I am the proverbial "Jack-of-all-trades". And don't forget the 24 years of uninterrupted work history. I can do any type of office work, although my goal is to work in a medical office. I was working in a medical office until I got canned. The doctor decided to replace me with my own intern for less money. How's that for a kick in the teeth? And they fired me over the phone. Gutless POS.
Little did I know that some nasty new truths were about to rear their ugly heads. At some point, I passed from being "unemployed" to being "unemployed for too long". And it doesn't take long to pass that threshold. It only takes a couple of weeks. Recruiters have told me that if your employment gap is longer than 3 or 4 weeks, you are now unemployable. Your resume goes right into the trash no matter what it says.
Soon after that, I lost everything. I lost my apartment, my furniture, my savings, my bank accounts, my credit cards and my once pristine credit rating. All gone, never to return. Thankfully for me, my parents are still alive and they love my enough to allow me to move in with them. Otherwise, I'd be living on the streets. Do you know how vile it is to be 52 years old and living with your parents?!! And it's no day at the beach for them to have me here either.
I wrote and re-wrote my resumes more times than I can remember. I applied to every job that I was qualified for, every job that I was over-qualified for, most jobs that I was barely qualified for and some jobs that I wasn't qualified for at all. I applied to every hospital, doctor's office, lab, clinic, nursing home, assisted living facility and hospice within 100 miles. 4 of them thanked me for applying. The rest ignored me completely. It's like I don't even exist. Like I said before, I can do any type of office work. And every business needs someone to answer the phones. And I put together resumes for every industry and sent them out. And never got a single reply. Here's where the second ugly truth came up. You can't be a guy and get a job in fields that are dominated by women. Most doctors may be men but most support people are women. And all administrative assistant/secretarial/clerical jobs are filled by women. You would think women would be understanding about sexism. But I found that women definitely do NOT want a man to intrude into their work environment. And don't try looking for a job in your late 40s and early 50s. Again, unemployable.
The pain and anguish and despair at times was unbearable. Everything that I worked my entire life to achieve is gone. And it's not coming back. I haven't cried in about a year because there are no more tears. I can't even do the things that I used to take for granted. Like getting hungry and deciding to stop at MickeyD's for a burger. People do that all of the time, every day. I did, at least when I felt like it. Now I can't. I don't have any money. I can't get a date. Even if I could meet a single girl, I can't ask her out. I don't have any money. I don't have an apartment to bring her back to. I have nothing. Actually, that's not true. I have 2 parents who love me and a roof over my head and food to eat. I have my tv and my computer. And I am thankful for all of them. I had a blood test this morning. There's nothing wrong. It's something my mom wants me to do each year as part of a regular check-up. I pray that the results come back with cancer or leukemia or something that will cause my demise. How sick is that? But I pray for the sweet release of death every night. My life ended 6 years ago. Now, I just exist. And I don't want to anymore.
Living the nightmare
I feel my life slipping past my fingertips. Every morning, I walk up trying to pick up the pieces of my self worth and try to understand why I got out of bed today. My partner, getting ready for work, kisses me on the forehead and says "I love you" before stepping out the door. As for me, I sit alone on the bedside trying to gather my thoughts on what I need to do.
I get up and turn on the laptop, checking the mundane posts from Facebook, check emails and then give myself the time block to search job postings. This routine has been going on for nearly 3 years. I have cried myself to sleep worrying over money issues and my health has started to show signs of wear.
My tree of hope has dwindled to a mere stump. The worthlessness I feel has attacked me time and time again; yet, like a zombie, my body functions but has become lifeless. I often think of what has become of me. I know I am not inferior, nor lack a willing mind to learn new things, but still, I'm jobless.
I look in a mirror, my once youthful face gleaming with life- now a lightly tarnished face with light wrinkles and bags over the eyes from the worry and strain from being without work. It's grueling to look at. Dark thoughts of ending it all pop in my head, but are halted by the visions of my love ones.
I glace at my resumes over and over, sending them to various job postings in hopes to get a call back or an email response. Nothing. I have applied to many jobs- from retail to working in an office, nothing but silence comes back.
I am connected with three job agencies and they can't seem to find me anything as well. I am willing to take and try anything. I have eaten a slice of humble pie and am willing to take a job. I get no offers. I cannot understand why I am not getting hired. I cannot understand why it's so hard for people like me, who are good, honest, hard-working people not able to get their foot in the door.