First Person: Eight Years Unemployed and Still Counting

Down But Not Out: Yahoo! Readers Share Their Stories of Unemployment and Job-Hunting

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First Person: Eight Years Unemployed and Still Counting

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Sea Smith in 2012.

Five million Americans are among the long-term unemployed--those without a job for 27 weeks or longer--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 7.3 million are looking for work, while the unemployment rate sits at 7.9 percent. Numbers aside, individual stories illustrate how America is affected. To see how joblessness hits home, Yahoo News asked unemployed and underemployed workers to share their job-hunting stories. Here's one.

FIRST PERSON | I graduated from college in 2004 and have been unemployed or underemployed ever since. I graduated with a bachelor's of science degree in graphic design, and I did not know it would be so difficult to find a job in my field. I have had absolutely no luck in finding a job in graphic design, full-time or part-time.

I have never stopped looking for a job in my chosen field. So I would say I am eight years strong, still looking. In the meantime, I have taken part-time jobs in daycare centers and factories to try and make some income. I have also tried volunteering in the hopes that I would find a paying job at the place I volunteered at, no such luck.

I don't know the exact number of jobs I have applied to in the past eight years, but it's safe to say I am more than 80 at this point. I live south of Pittsburgh, an area known for medical technology. If I had gone to school for something in the health care field, I probably would have had a job immediately. There is no field for art and creative jobs. I have never worked anywhere long enough to qualify for unemployment benefits. All of my past jobs have been part-time or temporary.

I now have an outstanding student loan for over $35,000. I know that's lower than what most people leave college with and that's the only bright side for me. I still cannot afford to pay back this loan and it has become delinquent. So, there goes my credit, in the toilet. I would like to find a job in graphic design but right now I am trying to find any job that pays a living wage so I start paying back this debt.

Many of my friends from college have had to move away to other areas of the country to find work, an option I will be doing soon. I would have done it sooner but didn't have the funds to move. I still know many people who are in the same boat as me, unable to find work in their field, and therefore still looking. The majority of jobs in the art/creative/design field require experience, crucial experience that I just don't have. I really cannot compete against someone who has even five-plus years of experience in the field and a professional portfolio to match. It's a vicious circle; I'm not sure how I am supposed to get any experience when no one will give me a chance.

I am optimistic about President Obama's re-election. (I voted for him.) This is a step in the right direction for the country. Am I better off than I was four years ago? Yes, slightly. Measures like the Affordable Care Act are better for the lower- and middle-class Americans.

Many people who are have some type of post-secondary education are underemployed and have to take jobs that do not pay well enough to allow them to pay back high student loans. The jobs they have to take (and let's face it, you have to have a job; you can't do anything without income) do not require post-secondary education and therefore are usually on the lower paying end. It's frustrating, and I am frustrated. But I do have hope that the next four years will bring a better job market.

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