Nearly half of unemployed not looking for work, poll finds

Fall in jobless claims signals an improving labor market
(Nati Harnik / Associated Press)

Some 47% of unemployed Americans say they’ve given up on looking for work, according to a poll commissioned by staffing firm Express Employment Professionals.

More than half say looking for work has been more difficult than expected; only 2 in 10 currently receive unemployment benefits.

Among the rest, nearly a third aren’t eligible and 30% never applied, according to the data, which was collected by Harris Poll from April 9 to 21 from among 1,500 unemployed adults.


The jobless rate nationwide dropped to 6.3% last month -- the lowest level since 2008 -- as the nation added 288,000 jobs, according to the government.

A plurality of poll respondents – 45% -- said they blame the economy most of all for their situation. Nearly 20% point to their last boss; 36% consider themselves personally responsible.

Nearly half said they hadn’t been on a job interview in the prior month. The percentage soars to 71% among those unemployed for more than two years.

The last time Kenneth Phillips, 55, had a full-time job was in 2007, when he worked for a parking company that ultimately laid him off when the recession hit.

He tried to launch a maintenance business in 2011 but his credit score was too low. Last week, he received a letter from a credit union denying his application for a credit card.

Now, he’s living in Section 8 housing downtown -- which he calls “a blessing” -- and subsisting on various forms of public assistance. There’s $221 a month from the county for bus fare, rent and essentials such as soap; $189 comes via food stamps.


A too-small paycheck from a short maintenance gig last year barred him from qualifying for unemployment benefits, he said.

He’s sent 20 job applications in the last six months -- and has received one reply.

“It’s not happening for me,” he said. “Unless I have a masters or a PhD that allows me to make $50,000 a year with a good job, I’ll be looking at $8 an hour.”

The poll Wednesday found that many jobless Americans are reluctant to make significant changes to boost their chances of landing a job.

Nearly two-thirds said they don’t plan to go back to school to make themselves more marketable; 44% said they wouldn’t relocate to another city for a job. Some 36% said they spent no more than five hours looking for work in the prior week.

Jobless benefits may be tamping down any sense of urgency. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they consider unemployment compensation to be a cushion; nearly half said they didn’t search as hard as they could have for openings because of the funds.