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Unemployment: A 99er Overcomes The Crushing Anxiety of Long-Term Joblessness

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UNEMPLOYED 99ERS
AP

After more than two years of unemployment, Francis Timothy Coleman of Bethlehem, Pa., landed a job as a forklift operator this summer.

"We all know times are tough, but things are certainly getting a little better, and that's what you work toward," said Coleman, who goes by Tim.

Times were toughest for Coleman, 42, when, as HuffPost reported last year, Coleman found himself locked in jail. He'd told a local TV station that he was going to rob a local Bank of America branch. The TV station called police, who went to Coleman's house and arrested him for making "terroristic threats."

Coleman didn’t have a weapon of any kind -- he didn’t even have a plan for the robbery. He just wanted to rage against Bank of America for not immediately refunding $3 that had been taken out of his checking account by a credit monitoring service Coleman said he never asked for.

"I wanted the media there and I wanted them to witness the bank telling me, 'No, we won't pay you that money back,' " Coleman explained to HuffPost after getting out of jail last year. "I guess in a real strange way I was trying to right a situation I felt was very wrong. The largest bank in America. They got probably the largest bailout money from the government and they don't need to be stealing from their customers."

He acknowledged that at the time he made his threat, he suffered from anxiety and that things had gotten "a little out of control" after two years of joblessness. He'd become a "99er" -- a person whose joblessness has outlasted the maximum number of weeks of unemployment insurance. More than 2 million people have been out of work for 99 weeks or longer, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

While his actions were extreme, Coleman's desperation was typical. Many people have told HuffPost that the anxiety of long-term unemployment can be absolutely overwhelming.

"When you're out of work that long you're not talking about just the financial issue," Coleman said. "It's the simple fact of doing something. Of working. Of having a routine."

Coleman can now put that behind him. His new job is at a cold storage facility in Bethlehem, not far from his house. He said he had signed up for work with a labor temp agency back in April and is optimistic that his current placement with the forklift gig will become permanent.

And he's fulfilled a vow he made last year by not depositing his paychecks with a bank.

"I opened an account with a credit union up here," he said. "I really love being with them. I have my auto insurance with them. It has saved me a ton of money on my auto insurance."

Coleman’s mother is grateful that her son is back on track.

"Oh thank heavens," she said (she requested her name not be used in a story). Coleman lives with and has helped take care of his mother for many years, so his long unemployment spell wasn't much fun for her, either. "The fact that he was in prison certainly didn't help the whole situation."

Arthur Delaney is the author of "A People's History of the Great Recession," HuffPost's first e-book.