Reader's anguished cry on "extreme underemployment"

Letters to the Editor |

Apr. 16, 2012 — I’m a white, 55 year-old male who lost my last good job in the property/casualty insurance field, effective Jan. 1, 2010, when the client of my third party administrator employer reorganized and eliminated my position. Since then it’s been all downhill for me. I have worked at two jobs this past year that pay slightly more than minimum wage. I have exhausted my life savings (admittedly in part due to some personal problems/addictions that consumed my time and money during 10 months of unemployment when I had nothing but time on my hands). I cannot afford health insurance.

Child support (I’ve been divorced for almost 6 years with two daughters, 14 and 17) is taken out of my pay check by the county leaving me with just enough for food and a few other expenses. I’ve been fortunate to be able to live with relatives for the past year after having to leave my apartment.

I have applied for hundreds and hundreds of jobs in my field over the past two years to no avail — in spite of more than 30 years of experience. I should say “because of” rather than “in spite of” since for most positions my experience works against me. I’d happily accept a position for which I would be overqualified, but employers prefer younger, less experienced people for these positions. I have found that there exists almost no possibilities between my last good position (I was making $65,000 with good benefits) and the crappy hourly positions I’ve been forced to take the past year.

In other words, there is underemployment and then there is extreme underemployment. Starting in a new field is not a realistic option in this new, horrible job market. If I’m unable to secure a decent underemployed position in the field in which I have a ton of experience, what chance would I have in a field in which I have no experience?

The other big problem is that I have had nobody to talk to about my experience these past 2 years and 3.5 months. None of my relatives have experienced any problems and have no understanding of my situation. They tend to be very judgmental, expressing no sympathy, expecting that I should be able to accept my relatively new lowly status in life and deal with it somehow…

Anyway, that’s my sob story. I have given up completely on ever securing another decent job. And after divorce, my last good job was the only good thing I had going for me. I really don’t blame myself for my situation, but not blaming myself does me no good. I consider the fact, after four years of college and 31 years of experience, that I have been unable to secure another decent position as a daily crime against my humanity. My situation is beyond ridiculous, beyond hopeless.

I may be an extreme example of the effect of un- and under-employment, but I think your article [The hidden toll of underemployment] barely gets at the devastating effect, especially on someone like me — older, divorced, well-educated male.

For me, the American Dream is dead and gone forever. For me, recovery is not possible.

Bruce Underdahl, Minneapolis, Minn.


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