Joblessness

By Sam Yoon

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"""One thing that’s been on my mind for the last six months has been unemployment. And for good reason—this is the defining feature of our time, and I didn’t have a job.""      Sam Yoon
by Sam Yoon, 89.7 WGBH
Friday, July 2, 2010
 
When I was asked to provide occasional commentaries on this radio station, I was told to talk about “what was foremost on my mind.” One thing that’s been on my mind for the last six months has been unemployment. Joblessness. And for good reason—because (1) this is the defining feature of our time, and (2) I didn’t have a job.

In January of this year, I joined the ranks of 15 million other Americans who did not have a job, were actively looking, and were available to work. Now granted, the way I lost my job was a bit unusual. Last year I was a city councilor at-large in Boston, and had decided to give up my seat to run for Mayor. I lost.

Losing the election was tough. But facing an uncertain future, both for me, my wife and my kids, was in a lot of ways tougher. Studies have shown that unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can affect your personal and family relationships and your self-esteem. I experienced all of that to varying degrees. And I shudder to think that today, 46 percent of the unemployed are long-term unemployed – the highest percentage recorded since 1948, when the Labor Department began tracking this data. That’s almost 7 million Americans who have been looking for work for over 27 weeks.

It goes without saying that the impact on the psyche of our country is enormous. It shows up in the stories that we read about, that we hear about. Divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, depression – these costs aren’t directly measured in the calculation of our economic health. But they are fundamental in terms of how we should think about our nation’s well-being.

Anyone who happens to be running for political office this year, for Congress, for Governor of Massachusetts – does well to put jobs and employment at the center of their platform. Governor Deval Patrick, who I am supporting, can rightfully boast of the improvement in the employment picture in our state. But he has also never deviated from his message that while government should do everything in its power to help, we as individuals have enormous power and responsibility to help each other.

If you know someone who is unemployed, especially someone who’s been looking for a long time – check in on them. Buy them lunch. Give them reasons to hope, to be connected. It doesn’t cost much, but it goes a long way. Believe me, I know."

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