Family Relations Hurt by Joblessness

Article excerpt

As the number of Americans out of work 27 weeks or longer continues to increase, more one-earner families are abruptly confronted with the stay-at-home spouse suddenly being forced to enter the employment market in the middle of a jobless recovery. The change in household dynamics may cause serious disruptions in families.

"For one-earner families, the impact of an unexpected job loss is especially hard. Not only is the sole source of income eliminated, but the role of the stay-at-home spouse quickly changes to that of a job seeker and eventual wage earner," notes John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of international outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., and a member of the labor/human resources committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1999 to 2002.

Much attention has been given to the growth of dual-income households over the last two decades, but 22% of married-couple households, or 12,400,000 households, still have just one earner, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 9,300,000, or 75%, of one-earner households, the husband is the wage earner.

The odds that the single earner in these households is experiencing prolonged unemployment are increasing. There is no available data showing whether those unemployed 27 weeks or more have a working or stay-at-home spouse. …