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Unemployment: Emotional Cost Behind the Figures

4963931Scene: Corporate elevator

Employee #1: "Monday morning-ugh!"

Employee #2: "I'm so happy to still have my job that I can't even complain about Mondays!"

As economists focus on signs of economic recovery and investors rejoice in stock market gains, there's a nagging sense among many that until we start to hate Mondays again, this recession will not end.

The unemployment statistics are simply staggering. You heard the headline that the June unemployment rate was 9.5%, the highest since 1982, when the rate peaked at 10.8%. But inside that report, were some disturbing facts and figures.

• When you add back all of the part-timers and disgruntled employees, the unemployment rate jumps to a jaw-dropping 16.5%

• The number of people out of work for at least 15 weeks climbed to 5.1% or 7.8 million people. Until June, the post-Depression high was 4.2%

• The proportion of workers without jobs for at least 27 weeks rose to 2.8%, the highest since World War II

• The average unemployed worker has been out of work for 24.5 weeks, the longest period on record and six weeks longer than the average at the peak of 1982

• There were approximately 5.7 unemployed workers for every job opening in May

If you want to see how bad things are state-by-state, check out this depressing chart of broad unemployment across the country from the New York Times.

The current desperate shape of the nation's employment situation contributes to a certain anger and frustration that is fomenting. My friend Lee notes that with one out of ten people is unemployed, there's an additional cost: the American work ethic just tears good workers apart who are twiddling their thumbs.

People work not only for the money–they also like the sense of accomplishment. To that extent, this recession is exacting a deep and significant toll on our psyche. We may hate Mondays, but we are a nation of hard workers.

This post originally appeared The Financial Decoder blog on CBS Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.
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