It's not only the traditional unemployed who fret about jobs. It's college students. Seniors. Military veterans. Single parents. The middle class. It's Americans of all backgrounds, and they all will listen closely to President Obama's jobs speech Thursday evening. They say they need Obama to tell them something -- anything -- that will give them hope and restore faith in the sleepy U.S. economy.
"It is very hard not to live in fear," says Angela Loreto DeMeyer, an unemployed New Yorker.
She is a 99er, one of the nation's job-seekers who has exhausted her 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. "Those of us going without benefits the longest want to hear there will be help on the way in the form of an extension. Many 99ers have already lost everything. Now we just want, and need, to survive."
When Obama addresses the nation, he'll speak to Americans like DeMeyer. He'll also be talking to the 9.1 percent of Americans who are unemployed.
While jobless numbers illustrate the unemployment story, it's everyday Americans who put a human face on the statistics. Yahoo! News asked them: What should Obama talk about in his jobs speech to Congress?
R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen, 27, like many others who responded, is tired of talk. "President Obama needs to address exactly what he plans to do to get Americans back to work," the Cleveland college student writes. "I don't want any more calming and reassurance; I want action. Obama must finally put his foot down and tell Congress, 'No, I am the president and this is what we are going to do to get America back on track.' "
Here is a sampling of what others told Yahoo! News.
An 'underemployed' middle class
Chicagoan Whitney Levon, who dubs herself "underemployed," wants Obama to provide quality jobs -- not stopgap gigs that boost approval ratings while doing little for workers: "With more Americans with college degrees taking jobs at minimum wage, offering more McJobs will only slow the economy," writes Levon, a 32-year-old single mother of a disabled son. "Those workers will not have additional money to spend on anything besides the bare necessities, which will do nothing to stimulate the already sluggish economy."
"I am not unemployed. I am underemployed," writes Martha Fry, a 52-year-old single mother who has five kids (ages 22, 21, 16, 14, and 12) still under her financial wing. "I am one of many Americans who have accepted employment below their qualifications because jobs for which I have the education and experience are not available. Obama needs to lay out a comprehensive, government-supported jobs initiative. I need the president to provide specifics as to how his jobs initiative will be financed. After the recent gridlock debacle on raising the debt ceiling, the president cannot simply outline a plan and expect the Congress to figure out how to pay for it."
[Your Story: What do you want to hear from Obama?]
When Derek Ciapala got out of the U.S. Navy in 2006, the U.S. economy was strong, unemployment was below 6 percent and he was convinced that as a veteran he'd find a job. He was wrong, and now he fears Obama isn't doing enough to help military vets land work: "I don't want to hear flowery talk about our country's economic future from Obama; instead, I want him to lay it all out for us. I want him to address ways to raise funding that can be re-invested in jobs programs. I want to see him think outside the box and take some risks instead of leaving things as they are."
"I do insist that President Obama take this opportunity to give the people of the country some hard-core, unarguable proof that America is coming off life support," writes Cathy Montville, who is worried about investing more money in her 18-year-old small business in New England. "An over-the-top number of U.S. citizens have struggled far too long now. It's shameful. You're the president. Tell Congress to take their rightful seats in the naughty chairs. Then, show us concrete evidence that you are strengthening the economy, so I can help, too, by growing my business again."
Americans are sick of the political battles
Paul Rados, 33, who works in the food and beverage industry, wants a better future, but he sees political posturing as a roadblock: "I do not want this speech to turn into a stereotypical campaign speech. The jobs issue is too important for many Americans like me who are sickened by party politics on both sides. Now is not the time to battle over political ideologies; it is a time to make our great country better. It is a time to get our fellow citizens back to work and contributing in our society."
"I want Obama to inspire us. I want him to tell us the truth. I want him to make us feel like we've got at least a morsel of power to do something for the better," college student Dominic Pompo, 21, writes. "We're all sitting around feeling frustrated and powerless as we watch Congress bicker over things we have no say in. We want this to change, and we want it now."
"I want answers, not just what I call 'speech-speak' -- words politicians say to just make people feel good, knowing they will never do what they are saying," says Dasha Banklewski, a designer in Studio City, Calif.
For jobs, go back to the future
Some voters say the country should look to Roosevelt's New Deal to hoist the economy out of its doldrums.
"Develop a job corps," writes Karen W. Wyman, who is unemployed in Summerland, Calif. "If it worked for FDR, it can work for Obama. Revive the Civilian Conservation Corps, and use the labor to repair and rebuild the nation's schools and national parks. Given the level of unemployment in the construction trades, skilled workers shouldn't be hard to find."
Kim Jacobs Walker, an owner of a struggling consignment shop in Austin, Texas, and the ex-wife of a 99er, suggests Obama shouldn't just reinstitute benefits: "I hope Obama and his advisers have a plan for the 99ers -- not just to extend benefits -- but to reintegrate them into the work force. The country is a hotbed of unfulfilled needs, and there are 2 million people sitting on their hands, pleading for something to do. Surely there's a way to put the two together -- maybe a works program, like the WPA and CCC during the Great Depression."
Students worry higher education won't translate to quality jobs
Staniel Peoples is a 38-year-old Marine Corps veteran, father of two and a student at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. He has a 3.6 GPA. He's made the dean's list. He's received scholarships. But as proud as he is of his achievements, he's unemployed. He says a degree is his best hope for the future, but if financial aid is cut, he could find himself out of school and homeless.
"I want to hear President Obama say he won't consider cutting Pell Grants and other financial aid to students," Peoples writes. "My wife and I are only trying to make a better future for us, so any cuts will be devastating. Companies want people with degrees. If we remove funding for education, we'll have fewer people qualified for jobs, causing more unemployment. Obama needs to know that and address that."
"What I hope to hear Obama say is that there will be no changes to the educational programs or the Earned Income Credit," writes Indiana college student Kathy Foust, 38. "But I have to plan for the worst. Watching his speech will be like watching my life plan being set up like evolving dominoes. If these programs are eliminated or modified, then a whole new course of action will be called for, not just in my life, but nationwide."
Energy jobs are needed -- but oil and gas, or solar and wind?
"What I'd like for President Obama to address in his speech is a viable energy policy that will get the region where I live -- and a lot of other regions around the nation -- back on track," writes Susan Culver, 39, an unemployed single mom in energy-rich western Colorado. "This policy must be clear and it must be aggressive. It can't be full of nebulous talk about 'new' energy and incentives that might come someday or green economies full of jobs that never happen. A strong energy policy that embraces the resources we have available to us will provide jobs. All of the resources: coal, oil and natural gas, uranium, and even the critical and strategic minerals needed for batteries and solar panels."
But Jeff Musall, a 48-year-old military veteran who can't find steady employment in Portland, Ore., wants Obama to go all in on green-energy initiatives: "He needs to put his cards on the table for the much-touted "Green Economy" and get building. I don't want to hear we can't, or that the job is too big. This is the country that could build a Liberty Ship in three days during WWII. You mean to tell me we can't build windmills? Or cover the roofs of homes and businesses with solar panels? The president needs to swing for the fence, and let the Republicans try to obstruct. If they deny millions of Americans jobs, let them reap the electoral whirlwind."
The young unemployed vs. seniors worried about Social Security
Among America's concerned are just-graduated young job-seekers and retired seniors who want plans for a strong workforce, but worry their Social Security and Medicare will come at its expense.
"President Obama just celebrated his 50th birthday, a milestone when many Americans begin to consider the implications of aging," writes Ted Sherman, who says his retirement investments have been cut in half in the last 10 years. "I'm 86 years old, and I hope approaching his senior years gives him more perspective about his plans for America's seniors. He should become more aware of what it means to be old today, trying to cope in the double problem of poor economy and rising inflation."
Sherman's needs might conflict with those of a younger generation: "I would love for the president to finally address the nation's younger population," S. Gustafson, a 22-year-old college student at the University of Wisconsin, says. "I want him to tell us his plan for getting the economy back on track so that we don't have to apply for hundreds of positions in order to secure a minimum-wage job. If Barack Obama wants support from the student and young adult population in 2012, he better start paying attention to us."
Below are more thoughts from readers and contributors. To share your perspectives, sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
"The president shouldn't dwell solely on those who have lost jobs during the recession and remember that recent graduates without a job are also unemployed. The phrase 'Getting America Back to Work' might be catchy, but it's misleading: Many jobless Americans have never even been to work in the first place." -- Christopher Sacco, unemployed journalist, Arizona
"Obama needs to do something to help us single parents stay above ground. The American Dream might be mom, dad, two kids, a dog, a house and white-picket fence, but it seems as though most of us who end up single parents are living the American Nightmare: two kids, a low-paying job, no health insurance, layoffs, food stamps and barely managing to survive." -- Melissa Charmain, single mom, Peoria, Ill.
"I'd like to finish school and get a better job. $10 an hour doesn't cut it for a single mom. I can barely keep my head above water. I have food stamps but $250 doesn't feed an adult and two children for a month. I want to know what's going to happen to increase the job market or at least make some tools and information available so I can increase my earned income. I don't want public assistance. I want a better wage no matter how hard I have to work for it. I just can't find it yet." -- April Whitaker, daycare worker, Wasilla, Alaska
"Health care, health care, health care. We need a new system and I sure hope Obama talks about a plan for one. I worked for a car dealership and had good insurance, for me and my sons. I got laid off and you know what they wanted to charge me to keep the same coverage? $900 a month. That's crazy, we need government health insurance." -- Sonya Partido, retail sales, Whittier, Calif.
"My girlfriend and I have been searching for work for the last six months. McDonald's isn't even hiring. Why don't we cut politicians' benefits and start giving some of that money to the American people?" -- Elliott Banks, Eagle River, Alaska
"The Obama administration could offer small business owners a tax break by eliminating tax liability if the adjusted gross business income is less than $12,000 or $15,000. Tax incentives would draw more consumers, increase sales, and help small business owners keep their head above water. Not only that, but would lower the unemployment rate and boost the economy. After all, small businesses are carrying on one of America's oldest tradition." -- Caryl Cress Ramsey, small-business owner, Forest, Va.
"I'm middle-aged, middle-income and have two teenagers living at home. My major concern is the future for my kids and grandchildren. My wife and I both have online businesses and make plenty of money so our current situation is stable. But we do worry about our children being able to have careers after college. Without a stable job market, college will be useless. I want Obama to come up with a plan that includes everyone." -- William Browning, writer, Branson, Mo.
"I am worried that President Obama will simply rehash all of his previous ideas and create more debt to develop temporary jobs. I have 25 more working years before I can retire; will Social Security still exist once I reach the retirement age? My family is able to make mortgage payments, take vacations and have a nice Christmas, but we do so by living within our means. I want President Obama to say he'll stop spending money the country does not have, which only further burdens America taxpayers." -- Tara Dodrill, real estate, McArthur, Ohio
"I'd like to see President Obama prove himself a leader rather than a panderer in his speech. We need a president who will take us to the wood shed for a well-deserved spanking. We blame politicians for the economies that we the people create. When he gives his speech, the president needs to stand up and shout, 'Grow up, America.' " -- Sevastian Winters, writer, San Francisco
"When President Obama addresses the nation on jobs after Labor Day weekend, he's going to have to take a radically different approach than he has in the past -- if he expects anyone to listen. Forget the promises, programs, and projections. It's way too late for all of that. What will turn heads is a fait accompli. If Obama announces that he has already accomplished something yet unknown to the American public that will produce jobs immediately, he'll get applause. Otherwise, he can expect disbelief, disinterest, and disenchantment." -- Carol Bengle Gilbert, 53, Silver Spring, Md.
"In a perfect world, President Obama should announce policies that financially discourage American firms from sending jobs overseas. Additionally, President Obama should push for financial incentives for U.S. firms that create new, full-time positions, especially those companies in the technology sector. From my point of view, it is just common sense: More full-time jobs for Americans will lead to a healthier economy and a healthier workforce. To allow offshoring and outsourcing to continue is just bad business." -- Steven Bryan, 48, technology industry, Irvine, Calif.