How Unemployment Affects You (Even If You're Working)

The impact of unemployment has far-reaching consequences. Even those who don't suffer layoffs in an office may find that their jobs (as well as their personal lives) have been negatively impacted. And for those who have lost their jobs, hopes for a timely retirement may be dramatically altered.

Employees Work Harder but Earn Less
Labor Department statistics show that Americans are producing more goods than in previous years, but are being paid less for their work. When coworkers are laid off, those that remain must pick up the slack, meaning longer hours, harder work and less pay. Although corporations may show some profits during these times, it often comes from employee cuts or reduced wages for those who remain.

Fear of job loss may leave employees feeling like they are at the mercy of their employers. For some companies, the hardest working employees may be the only ones around when the dust settles. While this may be a way to weed out the less productive workers, many of these productive workers may be facing burnout, as well. (To help avoid burnout, see our article Top 10 Ways To Avoid Burnout In Corporate Finance.)

It can be difficult to find motivation when there are no incentives (bonuses and raises). However, the fear of not having income may force employees to step up to the plate and work harder than ever before.

Impact on Retirement Savings
Personal savings accounts can be one of the first things impacted by loss of a job. That's why it is important for those who are fortunate enough to have a job in good times to take advantage of the automatic enrollment of their retirement plan. According to a survey from The Hartford in 2009, 32% of respondents were likely to postpone putting money into their retirement plan and 24% felt they were going to have to retire later. (Find out more about planning to achieve your retirement goals in Five Retirement Questions Everyone Must Answer.)

What To Do if Laid Off
When you find yourself laid off, it's time to network. There are plenty of online networking sites that can help you get back on your feet. Just remember – any connection can lead to employment.

One of the major issues people are facing when they get laid off is what to do about health insurance. Remember that there are plans like COBRA that can continue passed your employment.

Who Does Not Get Hurt During Hard Times
Not everyone gets hurt by a recession or downturn in the economy. Trends in employment statistics show that women may pass men in terms of numbers in the work force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of November 2008, women held 49.1% of jobs. Although there are more women entering the work force, they are still working fewer hours than men, and make only 80 cents for each dollar that men earn, according to the government report.

In times of recession, not all companies cut jobs – and some even thrive. Historically, dentists have done well in hard times, due to fact that people who have skipped taking care of their teeth find themselves having to play catch up. A survey by San Diego's AMN healthcare in 2009 showed that during a recession, many nurses went back to work to fill the financial void from a family member's lost wages. In the survey, 58% of those who responded said they were working more hours compared to the previous year.

Filing for Unemployment Insurance
How do you know if you qualify for unemployment insurance? The first place to start is your state's Department of Labor website, in order to answer a few qualifying questions. There is usually a waiting time before benefits take effect, and even then, the total amount you receive will not equal the amount you'd make while working. So, plan accordingly.(Preparation for unemployment can help you land on your feet should the day come, check out our article Planning For Unemployment for more.)

Conclusion
When unemployment is high, people who have jobs may be more stressed and overworked than ever. Those that have lost jobs may be feeling depressed and anxious. Though recessions end, and unemployment rates will fluctuate, it takes more than high hopes to land on your feet after a stint of unemployment. Plan ahead and use the money you have wisely, and you should be back in the office in no time.

For related reading, take a look at Are Layoff Protection Plans A Good Deal Or A Gimmick?

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