New Survey: 40% of Unemployed Have “Given Up”

Express Releases 2015 “State of the Unemployed” Survey

Long-Term Jobless Are Being Left Behind

Nearly Half Hold Themselves Responsible For Not Finding A Job

Express Employment Professionals recently released the results of its second annual in-depth poll, “The State of the Unemployed,” revealing that 40 percent of unemployed Americans agree to some extent that they have completely given up looking for work.

That figure, though high, represents a slight improvement from 2014, when 47 percent said they had given up.

The survey of 1,553 jobless Americans age 18 and older was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between April 7 and 29, 2015, and offers a rare look at the background and attitudes of the unemployed, their approach to the job hunt, who they blame for their current situation, and how they are holding up through tough times.

“We often hear people theorizing about what motivates the unemployed or how joblessness is affecting the lives of our fellow Americans. Instead of guessing, we decided to ask them,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

“This survey shows that some of the troubling trends we observed last year are continuing. While the economy is indeed getting better for some, for others who have been unemployed long-term, they are increasingly being left behind.”














The largest groups by age are those between 18-29 and 50 or older:










The vast majority lack a college degree:














Compared to last year, the average duration of unemployment has increased by greater than three months, from 23.2 months to 26.8 months:












The most notable figure is clear: More than two out of five unemployed Americans have been jobless for more than two years. That represents an increase from 2014, when 32 percent said they had been out of work for more than two years.


The job market is discouraging for many. A full 40 percent say they “agree” with the statement, “I’ve completely given up on looking for a job.”

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Time takes a toll. The longer someone is out of work, the more likely that person will report having given up.

  • 21 percent of those out of work three months or less agree they have given up
  • 37 percent of those out of work four to six months agree they have given up
  • 34 percent of those out of work seven to 12 months agree they have given up
  • 32 percent of those out of work 13 to 24 months agree they have given up
  • 55 percent, a clear majority, of those out of work for more than two years agree they have given up

The unemployed say they left their previous jobs for a range of reasons:

  • 28 percent were laid off
  • 19 percent quit
  • 10 percent were downsized
  • 5 percent decided to go back to school
  • 4 percent are recent high school graduates looking for a job
  • 4 percent were let go for performance reasons
  • 3 percent are recent college graduates looking for a job
  • 2 percent recently left high school without a degree or GED and are looking for a job
  • 25 percent say something else was the reason


But when asked who is “responsible” for their being unemployed, almost half select “myself.” (The unemployed were asked to choose all that applied.)












Not everyone is regularly looking for work:













Forty-eight percent also report not having a single interview in the last month – among them, eighty-two percent have not had a single interview since the beginning of 2014 or earlier with 77 percent not having been on an interview since 2013.

Almost half of unemployed Americans are ready to take any job with forty-eight percent agreeing with the statement, “I am willing to take whatever job I can get.”  While another 32 percent say they are concerned about future stability, agreeing with the statement, “I am looking for a job with a company that has a history of stability to reduce my risk of losing a job even if it means a lower salary or wage.”  Finally, 20 percent are not ready to settle. They want to see an improvement over their last job, agreeing with the statement, “I am looking for a job that meets or exceeds my previous salary/wage and I would be unwilling to accept a job making less money.”


Among the unemployed, 14 percent are receiving unemployment benefits.

Of those receiving benefits, 89 percent say they would “search harder and wider” for work if their benefits ran out before finding a job.

Those receiving benefits were asked whether they agree with a series of statements about unemployment compensation benefits:










Among those who are not receiving unemployment benefits, 37 percent never applied. Another 32 percent say they are not eligible. For 22 percent, benefits have already run out, and nine percent were denied.

“Over the last year, we have seen the unemployment rate go down, but we too easily forget that there are people still hurting, still wanting to work, but on the verge of giving up. I believe everyone who wants to work should have a job, so we must not overlook those who have been left behind and left out of the job market,” Funk said.

Survey Methodology

This study was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals and included 1,553 U.S. adults aged 18 or older who are unemployed but capable of working (whether or not they receive unemployment compensation benefits). Excluded are those who are currently retired, choose to stay at home, or are unable to work due to long-term disability. The survey was conducted between April 7 and April 29, 2015.

Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Totals may not equal the sum of their individual components due to rounding. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

Refresh Leadership is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

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