Unemployment down as people abandon job search

Published: .
Updated: .

Unemployment numbers are falling across the country, but analysts say that's mainly because more people gave up looking for work.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate slipped to 7.7 in November, the lowest number in nearly four years. Here in Indiana, hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers remain unemployed. Many of them will lose their unemployment benefits soon to federal spending cuts.

For a quarter of a million Hoosiers, job prospects are as dreary as the weather. Of the 250,000 out of work, only 75,000 are receiving unemployment payments. More than half them, - 43,000 people - will lose those benefits in three weeks when federal funding runs out.

Nijiah Garon is unemployed and training for a new job in health care.

"It is very concerning. It is very hard to find a job," she said.

Unemployed workers are on the edge of Washington's fiscal cliff. Automatic spending cuts set for the first of the year will reduce unemployment benefits from 16 months to just six. Joe Hoskins says he hasn't had steady work in two-and-a-half years.

"If it wasn't for family and friends, I would have no way to get by. I would be homeless, on the street," he explained.

The nation's economy improved slightly in October, creating 146,000 new jobs. University of Indianapolis economist Matt Will put the numbers in perspective.

"For the 146,000 people it's a big deal. If you got one of those jobs you are a happy person," Will said.

Unfortunately, there's not enough happiness to go around. The additional jobs helped nudge the unemployment rate down just one-tenth of one percent. Economists, Will among them, also say large numbers of jobless workers are so discouraged, they've quit looking and are no longer counted among the unemployed.

"In order to legitimately put a dent in unemployment in this country, you need about 300,000-400,000 jobs created in that same time frame. So it is not enough." he said.

Not enough jobs and not enough time, unemployed workers say, to find one before their benefits run out.

Who are these 43,000 Hoosiers who haven't found jobs and are loosing their benefits?

Indiana's Department of Workforce development says 40 percent of them held office, manufacturing, or construction jobs before being laid off. Two-thirds of them have only a high school education or less.

Several of the people we talked today, told us they were also trying to get additional training as they were looking for new jobs.