Unemployment and How We Can Help

How We Can Help Those Receiving Unemployment Compensation

Five years ago, the average duration of unemployment was 16.8 weeks with the US unemployment rate standing at 4.7%.  Now, the average time spent unemployed is 40.8 weeks and unemployment is at 8.3%.  My how times have changed.

Unemployment Benefits Paid by Your Employer

The American public is often unaware that employers are responsible for covering much of the cost associated with unemployment through what is called unemployment insurance as well as the employment taxes they pay and are responsible for.  Unemployment benefits for an individual average $295 each week  (You can view a comprehensive list of unemployment benefits by state here).

Unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs or qualify can provide up to 26 weeks of weekly benefits though an unemployment compensation supplement.  Depending on the state, workers who are approved for these benefits must actively search for work.  Different states have different program requirements and training available to workers as part of their unemployment benefit program.

Evaluating, protecting, and managing the corporate unemployment process is often the role of the HR professional until that HR professional is the unemployed worker navigating the process.

Unemployment for the individual is a life jolting process where people begin questioning every fabric of their being and every decision of their lives.  Often times our single largest source of income has evaporated, leaving us left with more uncertainty than answers.  That’s exactly how I felt when I applied for unemployment.  In 2006, I left my job voluntarily after working in a high stress and unhealthy HR role for a big box retailer.  I was transferred to my new position without my knowledge and during a paid vacation.  My new store happened to be the center of a multi-tiered class action employee lawsuit.  My life was threatened and my car was keyed by employees including my own assistant.  Having just gone through my divorce, I’d had enough change and drama that wasn’t healthy so I quit.

How We Can Help Those Receiving Unemployment Compensation

We can help those unemployed voluntarily as well as involuntarily the following ways:

  • Be Supportive.  There are more than 27.3 million unemployed (via SHRM.org) out there many of whom have exhausted their unemployment benefits or given up altogether.  That equates to 15.2% of the entire adult working-age population.  Support them.  Don’t judge them.  Provide them an ear to listen before your mouth suggests to them a solution.
  • Help a Job Seeker.  Offer to evaluate a resume or provide mock interview feedback.  By giving the job seeker a moment of your time, you provide hope and help.  Much of the job search is navigating the unwritten rules we, as HR professionals have come to know.
  • Treat Them with Dignity.  Job seekers who are displaced and out of work are people too.  Yes, many are experiencing increased financial stress that being unemployed brings but it shouldn’t define who they are as a human being.  Talk to them.  Get to know them, and remember that more than 27.3 million are unemployed.

It’s the little things that matter.  Meeting your friend for coffee just to check in, helping them update their LinkedIn profile, or calling just say hello.  I promise there is life after unemployment.

Back in 2006, I was unemployed just a few short weeks.  The market was different and I quickly found work.  My own experience being unemployed coupled with my work experienced as an HR professional, led me to create Blogging4Jobs (this blog).  I just released a short ebook and toolkit designed to help job seekers and those displaced and out of work.  It is called The Essential Job Seeker Toolkit.  Available for free, you receive a copy with no strings attached.  Because together we can help survive unemployment, and I intend to make the world a better place helping one job seeker at a time.  Click here to download The Essential Job Seeker Toolkit.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Diane Dolinsky-Pickar says

    Jessica, this is a fantastic post, and I applaud you for the courage and compassion to advise folks to be reaching out to their unemployed friends and associates, without judgement, and with a genuine interest to be helpful. It is in that spirit that I started Mojo40.com–to help myself, and help others as well, as I myself was part of the unemployed pool. While I could have sent out resumes and such all day long, I knew that taking initiative to do something more creative, played to my strengths, and would eventually work out for me. Thanks to Gd that this past week, I joined the ranks of the employed once again, after more than 1.5 years of not knowing what the big plan was for me. Now, I face the brave new world of being a journalist on Huliq.com. Come visit me at either site. And by the way, if you would like to spread the love a wee bit yourself–you sound like a person who really knows how to be supportive to job-seekers–I am looking for a co-host for my Google+ Hangout this coming Tuesday. If you are up for it, write me directly, k?

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Hi Diane,

      Thanks for the email. This blog was originally started to help job seekers learn the unwritten rules of the job search so I am very passionate about this topic. I think that the rules change in the job search and job seekers aren’t always aware. Sometimes the rules are petty and sometimes they make sense but most of the time it’s about a hiring manager’s preferences.

      I would love to join the G+ hangout but I have a webinar on Tuesday that I’m focusing my efforts on. You may not know but I had an internet television show for job seekers for 2 years. It was fun.

      As always thanks for your comment.




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