Job Seekers Dropping Out of the Workforce?

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With U.S. unemployment reported to have fallen below 8 percent in September for the first time in four years, some suggested the job market may be on the mend.

But others say many job seekers have simply lost hope of finding work and have quit the workforce altogether.

Temping Long-Term

Glen Dodge, from Norfolk, Va., enjoyed his work as an experienced and sought-after builder for 30 years.

"[I] started doing some construction work and remodeling with a company in D.C. and then worked my way from there into a position of basically framing houses," he told CBN News. "[I] worked my way up into supervision and that kind of thing."

Dodge said things changed when the housing market crashed.

"We found ourselves with a bunch of houses that couldn't sell so we had to go ahead and back off of building," he said. "It was a pretty difficult time."

The market so bad that Dodge was laid off from his job. It was the first time in his adult life that he was without work.

"It was really difficult in that you feel like someone's pulled the carpet out from underneath you and so your whole world totally shifts," he explained. "We actually ended up having to sell the house and we moved into an apartment."

Since being laid off six years ago, Dodge moved from one temporary job to another, a total of 12 different jobs in all.

"I've worked for a couple of employees since the major layoff and most of it's been remodeling," he said. "They've actually gone through situations where they've had work and then it's dried up and so there's no work there and they've had to lay off. So I've had that happen twice."

College Degree and Unemployed

The 55 year old represents just one segment of the country's unemployed population.

Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, a non-profit advocacy group in Arlington, Va., told CBN News that the weak labor market has hit 18 to 29 year olds especially hard.

"It's a situation that's a national issue that impacts all Americans but particularly young Americans," Conway said.

He said recent college graduates are having a tough time finding work in the down economy.

"Nearly 50 percent of them are either unemployed or underemployed," he explained.

"So when they go to look for work, they have to settle for jobs that don't require that degree and they have to compete against workers who do have those degrees or even masters degrees who themselves are older but maybe settling for jobs maybe reserved for entry level," he said.

The picture is even worse for the long-term unemployed, those out of work for more than 27 weeks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they total almost five million people and account for 40 percent of the unemployed.

Generations of Job Seekers

The most recent jobless report dropped to 7.8 percent, the first time it moved below 8 percent in nearly four years.

Despite the new numbers, more than 12 million Americans still need work. Crowds continue to line up at job fairs across the country.

"It can be a struggle most definitely. Gas prices you know, continue to rise. Food prices are very up, you know, kind of expensive," one job seeker in Atlanta, said. "So just to live on a every day basis can be very difficult in these days and times."

Conway said the lower unemployment rate is not good news and points to an even bigger problem. 

"You're having a decrease in unemployment right now is more people are dropping out of the work force. It's not that new jobs are being created," he said.

Many of those giving up looking for work are older. Statistics show the number of people age 55 and over who are without a job, or who are considered "underemployed," is on the rise.

Despite their years of experience, older, laid-off workers often compete with younger job seekers for the same jobs.

Settling for Anything

Maurice Johnston's story is just one of hundreds that have been posted on YouTube. His resume includes two masters degrees: one in plasma physics from Dartmouth and another in electrical engineering from Purdue.

After 10 years at Lockheed Aerospace and stints at teaching, he received a pink slip.

"Now I'm staying in a homeless shelter. I've been looking for work. I've come close several times," Johnston said. "They usually want someone younger."

Frustrated, more job seekers are settling for part time work because the economy is not adding enough full time job opportunities. 
 
"What's really going on is that they're in a job that they've actually taken because they had to or they had to settle with one that's below their education level and below their skill level and therefore below their earnings potential," Conway said. "And that's a major issue that's going on right now."

Meanwhile, Dodge is still searching for a stable job. He said he is trusting God to see him and his family through the tough times.

"You're hopeful in that, 'Okay, Lord, you know what you have in front of me and you know what my needs are,'" he said. "And I'm hopeful that he's going to supply all my needs which he's promised to according to his riches."

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.