Mark Doyle lost his job in August, it wasn’t a huge
jolt. Doyle, 59, had taken the traveling sales job six
months earlier, and it had become clear the business
wasn’t strong enough to support his territory. He’d
found the job fairly quickly after his previous
five-year sales job ended, and during those months, with
unemployment compensation and frugality, everything had
wife, Dianne, had become the one with the bigger
paycheck after he had left his job as an auto dealership
sales manager about seven years earlier, and the bank
that employed her had always been the source of
insurance benefits for the Windham, Conn., family.
in October 2012, just two months after Mark was laid
off, Dianne was one of about 160 people around the
Northeast who was laid off from her banking job. Dianne,
who is 58, had worked at the bank for 20 years, and had
worked her way up from teller to area manager.
was … God … that was really hard," Dianne Doyle
recalled. "I was in shock. Mark was a little bit in
months later, the Doyles are both still hunting for
work, despite a brightening employment outlook. April’s
job report showed unemployment fell to 7.5 percent, only
a few percentage points above a relatively healthy
unemployment rate of 5 percent.
more than 10 percent of U.S. families in 2012 had one
unemployed family member, according to new data from the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, married couples who were
simultaneously unemployed were far less common. During
2012, an average of 216,000 married couples, nationally,
were both unemployed at any given point.
down a third from 2010, but nearly three times as high
as it was in 2007, when the recession began.
University’s Carl Van Horn, a professor of public
policy who wrote "Working Scared (Or Not at
All)," said that most people who are out of work
for more than six months get by with help from a spouse
and unemployment insurance.
Horn said when women started entering the labor market
in larger numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, "it
provided a cushion against the volatility of the labor
when both people lose a job … it’s a double
problem," Van Horn said.
the most recent jobs report shows that the gradual
recovery is continuing to grind on — the nation’s
employers added 165,000 jobs in April — the Doyles are
financial part didn’t even sink in right away,"
Dianne Doyle said, recalling the day she was downsized.
"I really thought it would be fairly easy to find a
Doyle receives $547 weekly in unemployment compensation.
Insurance for the pair costs $1,000 per month, and their
medications are another $600. Her husband doesn’t
collect unemployment compensation, because he was
considered an independent contractor.
Doyle spent six months trying to get out of sales and
return to his first career, in nonprofit management. He
was the director of a YMCA before he became a car
salesman, and he has spent most of his adult life
serving the community, on the school board, on the
Windham town council and in other volunteer leadership
though he had some interviews, he had to accept going
back into sales and has had a few job interviews there
as well. He and his wife are determined to return to
work and both expect to work until 70 to make up for
this setback. Dianne Doyle will have a pension that
covers her working years, but Mark Doyle dipped into his
401(k) savings, and they estimate it’s down to
Horn said researchers at Rutgers’ Heldrich Center for
Workforce Development did a national survey of the
long-term unemployed in this recession. He said about
half of them gave up, and took Social Security at 62,
which lowers monthly payments by a third. The rest said
they expected to work longer once they do return to
is going to put a significant dent in whatever their
retirement future was," Van Horn said of both
groups. "The prime savings period for most people
is the 10 years before 65." That’s when they’re
done raising their children, and often, pay off the
mortgage, and so can put the money toward retirement, he
in Enfield, Conn., Carol and John Censki haven’t even
been getting nibbles as they’ve applied for jobs since
2011. John, 63, is among those who decided to take
Social Security benefits early and stopped actively
looking for a job this year.
a point where I got discouraged and depressed and had no
motivation," John Censki said.
Censki took an early retirement package from the state
in 2009, even though she knew her $52,000-a-year pension
wouldn’t be enough to cover expenses in retirement.
She thought her husband would return to his part-time
job after a medical leave, and that between that and her
own part-time work, they’d be fine.
four years later, at 59, she now realizes she was wrong.
After she retired, he was let go because he was gone too
long, 10 months.
Censki worked for the Connecticut Department of Labor
for 33 years, ultimately earning about $75,000 a year
adjudicating whether people were eligible for
unemployment benefits in complicated situations, where
businesses offered severance or went out of business.
many years while she worked at the state, she worked two
jobs, working at Burger King, as a waitress, in a
laundromat, as a bartender, to make ends meet as she
raised her son as a single mother until 1990.
did what I needed to do," she said. "I assumed
I could do it again."
said, "I went to machine shops, other maintenance
firms, but it dried up — nobody was hiring. I was
running into one closed door after another. Then I tried
going for food bagger, truck driver, parts delivery man,
stocking shelves at grocery stories. I was either
overqualified," he said, or they’d say, ‘We’ll
call you.’ "
just a sad situation, and it’s very difficult for
those folks to manage," said Van Horn, of Rutgers.
"Most of our social safety net policies weren’t
designed for a labor market recession that lasted this
long. Of all the age groups, the folks who have the
greatest difficulty getting re-employed are over the age
Doyle has also been surprised and frustrated by
non-responses and rejections.
interviewed for a management job at a bank," she
said. "They told me they didn’t think I had the
experience they were looking for."
she was a branch manager for 13 years, and this was a
branch manager job, she said it was obviously a form
letter. She started to think she may not be able to get
another bank manager job, both because banks tend to
promote from within, and, she believes, because of her
has applied for the jobs at branches that entail helping
customers open new accounts. She said, "I’d be
lucky to be getting between $25,000 and $30,000 a
year." The top end of that range is about half of
what she was making before her layoff.
the Rutgers survey, more than half of those over 55 who
returned to work after losing a job during the recession
had to take a pay cut of more than 20 percent.
Doyles and the Censkis were both near the midpoint of
income of Connecticut families before the recession. The
Censkis have substantially more income than the Doyles
now, but are struggling more.
modest Enfield house’s mortgage and utilities, along
with prescriptions and a car loan, were higher than
their income even the first two years after the buyout,
when Carol worked 20 to 25 hours a week at $25 an hour
for the state. She retired when they were carrying some
credit card debt, and in the past three years, ran up
more than $20,000 in balances. Now that debt is making
things worse. "All my credit cards got maxed out to
keep up with things," Carol said. "It was a
really dumb move."
sold possessions to try to keep their heads above water.
"I sold all my quality tools, my cameras, my
fishing equipment, my guns, a coin collection. I had
comic books. I had sports cards. Anything of value I
had, I sold. I even sold my lawn mower. I push now
instead of drive."
have cut back on some medications that I can’t afford
the co-pay," he said. He stopped taking a pill for
indigestion, for depression and for his thyroid.
"All of them are expensive."
whose health care premium costs are just $64 a month to
cover her husband, looked at him in surprise and
concern. "I didn’t know this," she said.
Chevrolet Malibu was recently repossessed, and Carol’s
unemployment checks stopped March 19. Carol said they
need $400 more a week than the pension and Social
lived large, and now we’re paying the price," she