CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) –
Eight years after the start of the great recession, much of Illinois is back to work and unemployment is down to six percent.
A few years ago, it was nearly twice as high. But there’s one category of unemployment where Illinois still ranks among the worst in the nation: “long-term unemployed.”
“It is a big black mark on your record when you’re unemployed for a long time. Because you’re seen as, what’s wrong with you?” said Matthew Guido.
Guido was a software testing engineer for 18 years until he was laid off in 2011.
“I never anticipated being out of work for four years. I don’t think anyone really does. And it’s very frustrating. Because you know you can do a job. And, but people don’t want to give you a chance, past a certain time. Past a certain time, questions change from, ‘What have you been doing?’ to “Why haven’t you been doing things?’ And that’s tough,” Guido added.
Guido’s time out of work placed him in a category called the “long-term unemployed.” That’s the official term for anyone who’s been actively seeking work for more than 27 weeks.
In Illinois, more than 40 percent of the unemployed are now in that category. That’s the second worst percentage in the country.
“In that time, I lost my condo, I lost my 401-k savings, and I spent my savings account. I was barely hanging on,” Guido said.
Then, he got some help from a group called Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, or SCF.
SCF helps the unemployed by first getting hiring commitments from companies that are looking for workers, and then training and placing workers with those firms. Last year, SCF found jobs for 712 workers. Seventy percent were long-term unemployed, and many feeling stigmatized.
“I think as the unemployment rate has dropped, I think the stigma has actually gone up. Because there is this perspective that, well, gosh, everybody I know did get a job. How are you still looking?” said Maria Trzupek of Skills for Chicagoland’s Future.
When employees like Guido spend not weeks, or months, but years without jobs, the economic impact is felt well beyond their own homes.
“Now you have somebody who is not spending money, so there’s less sales tax. So there’s less buying, less purchasing happening. Put those pieces together and it’s a very costly proposition for the economy,” Lynch said.
In Guido’s case, SCF had a hiring commitment from the SPR Consulting group. Guido received some additional training, some coaching for his interview, and now, he’s out of the ranks of the long term unemployed.