Photo: AP

In 2013, we published a 40-week series of true stories of unemployment. When it concluded, I still had dozens of unpublished stories. Here are a few.

More than three years after the final installment of that series, I still occasionally receive new stories. Mostly, people just want to be heard. Here is one that I received just this week, from a woman who says she was told that she owes the federal government $372 for food stamps she received last year.

Today I received [the judge’s] decision that they must collect money from me which I personal have no job and have no Penney to pay Federal government. According to her decision they should garnish my wages or community service. The questions I have now is OK worked pay taxes for 17 years. My legal husband work on his own. During unemployment benefits I was able to collect my benefits although I have a husband. When I am 65 years old I will have medicare benefits that will be title A, not title B. Title A means I did work and contribute on my own. Why is a public assistance telling me because I have a husband. Most of us in America we survive in one paycheck to pay check. Most of us one income is not enough. Or living as couple and we no longer support each other. How can a Welfare Office don’t see that. I see this as a discrimination. I probably have to hire a public defender for this. This is my unemployment story I wanted to share.

From an unemployed small town lawyer:

I am one of the lucky ones. My spouse’s income can cover almost all our necessary expenses, with belt tightening. (Goodbye, IRA contributions and nice dinners out.) My field allows me to just decide I’m self-employed and gives me the cover of “fired? Me? No, I’m just chasing the self-employed American Dream.” But there’s no budget for a start up and I’m mainly doing odd jobs for friends and family from my guest room at home. I’m a house husband with a law hobby.

The worthlessness is a constant problem. Some is from the firing I still don’t understand. Why would they throw me out on my ear? A lot of it is internal. I’ve been battered with Blue Collar Work Ethic since I was a kid. Work is supposed to be this thing that breaks you but is necessary and you do it well because of Pride. Well, I’m not working. And I sometimes enjoy Not Working, like when I do my shopping when there are no lines or get to watch tv when my chores are done before I start making dinner. Which is a huge source of guilt. And there are the outside voices, who don’t understand why I am such a bum and don’t just get a counter job at McD or wait tables. (Short answer being that one day of legal work, when I get it, pays more than a week of such work and taking such work lowers my community standing as an experienced attorney. This is a small town) but the opinions continue, unsolicited. I’m routinely told to apply for jobs that don’t exist, jobs outside my field, jobs I’m not qualified to do, etc and then when I’m not suddenly working at Job X it’s seen as my fault by the person that suggested it.

From a woman in New York:

I have been under/unemployed for 4+ years now, and I always felt like I was alone in struggle, and that no one understood or could relate to my problems. My friends certainly don’t; they all have jobs and are fairly established in their careers. Not being able to work, or afford basic necessities is a very isolating condition. I’m 30 years old, I still can’t move out of my parents’ home (after having to move back in), and I haven’t even been on a date in over 3 years. While I take no pleasure in the suffering of other victims of this terrible economy, it is reassuring to know that I’m not going through it alone.

From a laid-off nurse:

If you are doing another volume of unemployment I can write about being over 55 getting economic layoff and finding no jobs in nursing and how the jobs that do exist are geared for the bionic 25yo worker with MSN but pay less than my last job. So after 35yrs of nursing I am in same boat as my 24 yo son who refuses to take debt for higher education and just lost his second min. wage job where he was on call to drive 24/7 but only paid if he was actually called so paychecks varied widely but didn’t give any benefits.

I tried starting a business which has been a long redmark in the ledger and can tell about that. We enjoy eating mulberries from the alley in great pies and steamed lambsquarter from the yard tastes just like spinach so we don’t need weed killers or groceries as the flower bed is planted in tomato and squash.

Let me know if you want to divine the depths of despair.

America’s official unemployment rate now sits at less than 5%. But that equals nearly eight million unemployed people, and millions more who have given up looking for work. They all have a story to tell.

[Our entire “Unemployment Stories” series can be found here.]