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The Irony of Labor Day In Today’s Economy

For millions of people getting the day off on Labor Day isn’t a problem. The unemployment numbers are in the double digits in many states, 9.7 at latest count for the United States. Sadly, as pointed out in the New York Times article Out of Work and Too Down to Search On, these statistics don’t capture the people who have given up.

In the most direct measure of job market hopelessness, the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] has a narrow definition of a group it classifies as “discouraged workers.” These are people who have looked for work at some point in the past year but have not looked in the last four weeks because they believe that no jobs are available or that they would not qualify, among other reasons. In August, there were roughly 758,000 discouraged workers nationally, compared with 349,000 in November 2007, the month before the recession officially began.

After losing a perfectly good job, searching with hope only to be disappointed time after time… no one can sustain that kind of stress without consequences. There comes a moment of truth. Keep banging your head against that brick wall or stop. And if you stop, what’s next?

We’ve heard a lot about the five stages of Dr. Kubler-Ross’s grief cycle (Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance) and certainly they can be applied to reacting to sudden and traumatic job loss.

My concern is for those that stay stuck in the limbo of the depression stage, the discouraged worker who wants so much to work, is capable of work but can’t find work.

If your entire identity is fed by what you do to bring money into the household and you can’t do it, you are at risk, not only of depression, but of harming yourself and others. Find the courage to get help immediately. If you can’t do it yourself, ask a loved one to pick up the phone or go on-line for you. They can help you get the ball rolling with the right counselor. This web site has Ask the Therapist, which links to qualified mental health professionals on call right now who will listen and get you going in the right direction.

If you are among the lucky ones (and I use that term with caution) you get through to Acceptance and add your own sixth stage: Metamorphosis. We reinvent ourselves largely through reconnecting with who we are beyond what we do, cultivate resilience, optimize what resources are available to us (including people who love us) and embracing creative options. It may be hard for you to see right now, but it is possible.

The Irony of Labor Day In Today’s Economy

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D.

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, founder of Explore What’s Next, wife, and mom of two teenagers. Dr. Aletta is a writer whose articles have been featured on the New York Times Well blog, the Wall Street Journal Online, Parents magazine, NPR and the BBC London Radio. To learn more about Dr. Aletta and Explore What's Next, visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter!

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APA Reference
Aletta, E. (2018). The Irony of Labor Day In Today’s Economy. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 7 Sep 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.