Struggle continues for unemployed

By Phil Pruitt

If you're out of work, there's little comfort in hearing almost everybody in Washington pitch ideas for how to create jobs at some point in the future.

Republicans basically argue the federal government should cut taxes and spending, then get out of the way and let business do what business does, create jobs. President Obama says that along with some tax cuts, spending on infrastructure, innovation and education is necessary to assist business in revving up the American jobs machine.

Yahoo! News recently asked members of the Yahoo! Contributors Network who are unemployed to share their stories about losing a job and struggling to find another one. Their stories are poignant reminders that behind the monthly unemployment report are stories of unpaid bills, frustration and loss of hope.

No matter how sound or promising some of the ideas coming out of Washington are, they primarily are focused on the long term. Not surprisingly, the stories from the Yahoo! contributors are focused on the short term. They need full-time work today. The fact that the unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 percent to 9 percent in January doesn't mean much to them. They still are among the 14 million people out of work in the United States.

Here are excerpts and links to the contributors' full stories:

David Bolick of Hickory, N.C.
Excerpt: "At 55, I have learned new lessons while unemployed. For example, my definition of 'over-qualified' has changed. It previously applied to someone who had more education and training than the job required. Today, I've found it means I'm too old. Employers use the latter definition to keep themselves from being accused of age discrimination."

Lauren Haslett of New York City
Excerpt: "We have been told all our lives that if we make good grades, work hard, persist against all odds, we can do whatever we want. But is the United States still a country where a person can do whatever she wants? Or is it time to give up the dream?"

Priscilla Benfield of Woodbridge, N.J.
Excerpt: "Statistics mean nothing to me. The jobs just aren't here. In the last six months, I have seen a steady decline in the number of jobs posted in my area and in the starting pay."

Debbie Henthorn of Centerburg, Ohio
Excerpt: "I keep plugging along, offering the services I'm capable of and selling what I've got to sell. When we move in the spring -- destination unknown at this time -- we'll be leaving Ohio with a lot of great memories, whatever will fit into the truck and our hearts full of dreams of a better job situation somewhere else."

Rene Mullen of Albuquerque, N.M.
Excerpt: "Our families cannot understand why college graduates with so much education could not be making millions of dollars working for big name companies or universities. To be truthful, neither can we."

Richard Carriero of Boulder, Colo.
Excerpt: "Our bills, including tuition, rent and car expenses were expensive and our incomes erratic. Over winter break, I had no work with the exception of transcription and a gig shoveling snow for a contractor. We only got through Christmas with a generous gift from my wife's grandmother."

Yahoo! News also invited users to discuss the job market on Facebook, and one theme was jobs moving overseas. Three examples:

Karen Reedus: "Obama is not dumb. Factories are overseas never to return. The Industrial Revolution is over. We need innovators, researchers and new types of jobs to rise to the top."

Shelly Ganson Martin: "The job outlook will not get better until our government quits giving tax breaks and 'bailouts' to companies who are taking our jobs overseas. This is horrible policy."

Cindy Marie Turner: "Every time we purchase something made outside this country we contribute to the problem. Demand & buy American-made products & manufacturers will come back to America or they'll sell their goods elsewhere for a lot less profit. Don't support companies that don't support us."

Phil Pruitt is politics editor at Yahoo! News.