@FiveThirtyEight: It’s Hard to Get Off the Couch When You’re #Unemployed

By Ben Casselman

Mark, 22 and unemployed, sleeps late in the morning.

His roommate has to get up for work, but Mark has nowhere to be. He rolls out of bed at 11 a.m. He checks his email — still no response to his last round of resumes — and heads out for a run. When he gets home, he spends 45 minutes filling out job applications, then plops down in front of the television for a couple hours before cleaning up the house — he’s taken on more chores since his roommate is cutting him a break on the rent. In the evening, his buddies are catching a game at the local bar, but Mark has class at the local community college, where he’s working toward a certificate in HVAC repair.

That deep divide between those with jobs and those without them reveals itself not just in well-known statistics on hiring and income but in the day-to-day details of how people live their lives. The unemployed have higher rates of depression, obesity and suicide. In interviews, they frequently report that the social and emotional impacts of joblessness — isolation from friends, the loss of a daily routine, feelings of uselessness — can be as hard as the financial toll. Many say it’s hard just to get out of bed in the morning.

Government data released Wednesday helps put numbers to those anecdotes. Every year, researchers from the Census Bureau1 ask thousands of Americans for a minute-by-minute accounting of how they spend their days.2 The result, the American Time Use Survey, provides a remarkably detailed look at how much time Americans spend doing everything from grocery shopping (6.4 minutes a day, on average) to helping their children with their homework (7.5 minutes for the average parent) to lying awake in bed (more than an hour and 20 minutes for the average insomniac).3 It isn’t much good as an economic indicator — it’s released just once a year, and the year-to-year changes are small and fairly volatile — but it paints a detailed picture of how the economy affects people’s lives.

Overall, the unemployed spent more time sleeping, watching television and taking classes than the employed, and less time eating out and going to parties. They spent about an hour and a half a day, on average, on activities related to finding a job, including career-related education. But the most interesting details come when you zoom in on specific demographic groups.

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Curated from fivethirtyeight.com