07/30/2014 10:51 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2014

After the Final Friday: My Life on Unemployment


The week after finding out I was losing my job, I placed my house with a realtor and put it up for sale. I had purchased the house because there were no rental units available in town when I needed a place to live.

I made arrangements with my financial adviser to keep my retirement plan and with my health insurance representative to continue my health insurance. Of course, the responsibility fell to me to fund both my retirement plan and pay for my health insurance.

After my last day at work, I signed up for unemployment. Here I was with a Master's degree, sitting with unemployed construction workers. I drew 26 weeks of regular unemployment and an additional 26 weeks of emergency unemployment. I went from earning $2094 per month at my job to $698 every two weeks ($1396 per month). It was exactly 67% of my take-home pay. I could not afford to maintain all of the utilities in my house. I cancelled the cable TV, home phone, internet, and garbage pickup. Thankfully, my mother had home phone service, and we had internet service installed the following Wednesday. Because I live in a rural area and do not have nearby library access, home telephone and internet service are essential. On unemployment, one has to make contacts. In order to make a contact, one must telephone employers and ask if they are hiring, email a resume, or complete a job application; nearly all of the job applications I completed were online. I would sometimes spend up to five hours per day making contacts.

I had several interviews, but could not afford to move out of state or to another part of my state and pay both my mortgage payment and rent. In addition, none of the employers with whom I spoke was willing to pay moving expenses. In addition, many employers were seeking employees for only a few hours, not days, per week. Because these employers were so far away from where I lived, I would not have even recouped my travel expenses had I worked for them.

I sold my house on July 5, 2012. It was good that I made a small profit from the sale of my home because the emergency unemployment ended the following week. I still had not found a job at that point. I received payment in July and in September for writing magazine articles. In October, I received an additional nine weeks of emergency unemployment. Altogether, I collected unemployment for less than 18 months. No, I have never received welfare or food stamps. No, I am not rotting in my parents' basement. However, if I had not moved in with my mother, I would be homeless. I am single and have no children; however, if I had children, I would likely be eligible for additional benefits.

I wanted to start my own business while on unemployment. When I informed my local unemployment office of this, they said, "Before you start a business, you have to come to our office and sign paperwork." I later learned that the paperwork they wanted me to sign was to sign away my unemployment and stop receiving unemployment. I did not sign the paperwork or start a business at that time.

I believe three factors were responsible for my prolonged unemployment. The first was my employer's policy of noncompetition. My employer had many facilities throughout the state and I could not work at any of them. The second was the poor economy in 2011; it seemed that very few employers were hiring. The third was my house. Even though I had placed my house with a realtor, I had to continue making mortgage payments.