12/12/2012 02:32 pm ET

'Still Out of Work?' How to Handle Holiday Small Talk

Holiday gatherings can be anything but festive for people who are out of work. Even an innocuous "How's it going?" can feel like a tender topic--especially for the legions of long-term unemployed Americans whose ranks have swelled since the last recession.

Frustrated job seekers may find it awkward to explain what is going on, or not going on, in their lives. (Especially dreaded: the new-acquaintance query "What do you do?")

On the other hand, hosts and partygoers trying to catch up with an out-of-work friend or relative may find themselves unexpectedly in a conversational minefield, since research links long-term job loss to other problems such as depression and declining health.

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