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Unemployment etiquette

Posted by Robin Abrahams  March 25, 2013 09:49 AM

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The Globe today reports on growing population of 45-and-older workers who have been unemployed for a year or more:

The number of people 45 and older who have been jobless for more than a year has quadrupled since 2007, accounting for nearly half of the 3.5 million Americans out of work for more than a year, according to the US ­Department of Labor.

"Historically, we've never seen anything that comes close to this; these numbers are unbelievably high," said Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies. "And the longer you're unemployed, the more likely you are to leave the labor force, and the more likely it's an early retirement for you."

This is not a sandy-beaches-and-sunsets type of retirement. After years of financial independence, many must lower standards of living, deplete savings, or rely on spouses' earnings. The majority are older white men, according to the Labor Department, including many college-educated workers who rebounded from job losses earlier in their careers, only to see employment prospects dim in what should be their prime earning years.

The NYTimes, this weekend, tackled the tricky etiquette issues faced by the long-term unemployed and their friends:

The waves have only been made choppier by the fact that the country's unemployment rate of 7.7 percent has been compounded by various recent and much-publicized examples of supposed early or temporary retirement --- hello, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Steven Soderbergh, Leonardo DiCaprio and Pope Benedict. Is the preternaturally tanned gentleman who's always at the gym at 3 p.m. a casualty of the work force, or has he simply embraced the elasticized waistband lifestyle? What did your friend who was recently let go from Pfizer mean when she said: "Call me! Anytime after 11 a.m. is usually safe."
How have your friendships been weathering the recession, readers? 
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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