Hundreds Of Thousands About To Lose Unemployment Benefits

I've sent out more than a hundred resumes since last year, and I've gotten exactly one callback. And it's not as if I'm being fussy, either. Yeah, it'

I've sent out more than a hundred resumes since last year, and I've gotten exactly one callback. And it's not as if I'm being fussy, either. Yeah, it's pretty ugly out there:

WASHINGTON - In the coming weeks and months, hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits, just when it's never been harder to find a job.

Congress extended unemployment aid twice last year, allowing people to draw a total of up to 59 weeks of benefits. Now, as the recession drags on, a rolling wave of people who were laid off early last year will lose them.

Precise figures are hard to determine, but Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute, estimates that up to 700,000 people could exhaust their extended benefits by the second half of this year.

Some will find new jobs, but prospects will be grim: Layoffs are projected to go on, and many economists expect the jobless rate, already at 8.5 percent, to hit 10 percent by year's end.

"It's going to be a monstrous problem," Vroman said.

U.S. employers shed 663,000 jobs in March, and the jobless rate now stands at its highest in a quarter-century. Since the recession began in December 2007, a net total of 5.1 million jobs have disappeared.

Those who know that their unemployment aid is about to run out are counting the days, taking on odd jobs, moving in with relatives and fretting about the future.

"My biggest fear is we'll lose the house," said Hernan Alvarez, 54, an Orlando, Fla., construction worker who lost his job in July and whose benefits will end in four weeks. "The only thing I can do is keep looking for work and hope tomorrow will be better than today."

That so many people have remained on jobless aid for more than a year underscores the depth and duration of the recession, which began in December 2007. If the downturn extends into May, it will be the longest recession since the Great Depression.

Problem could get worse

The jobs crisis it has created has proved worse than most economists forecast — not to mention what lawmakers expected when they extended jobless benefits last year.

In March, nearly a quarter of the unemployed had been without work for six months or more, the highest proportion since the 1981-82 recession.

And the problem will probably get even worse. Employers typically remain reluctant to hire even months after a recession has officially ended. In the 1990-91 and 2001 recessions, the jobless rate peaked more than a year after the recovery began.

"What comes next, I'm afraid, will be the mother of all jobless recoveries," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, a consulting firm. "While we may emerge from recession from a statistical standpoint later this year, most Americans will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a recession and a recovery the next 12 months."

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