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Healthcare reform and Afghanistan are getting the headlines, but President Obama's biggest challenge could be creating jobs. The US economy needs 100,000 new jobs every month just to keep up with growth in the population. Instead, more than 200,000 a month are disappearing.
Despite talk about economic "recovery," unemployment's at 9.8 percent, the highest in more than 25 years. Full employment isn't likely again until 2017.
What is it like for those of get laid off and how hard is it to get re-hired? What happened to that economic stimulus money? What can the government do now? Instead of promoting a quick fix, should the focus be on new jobs with long-term usefulness to American society?
Those are questions raised by Sudeep Reddy, Economics Reporter for the "Wall Street Journal."
He says conversations are starting about a new stimulus package, and a lot of the talk is around extending unemployment benefits.
"The highest unemployment benefits rate right now is for people who have lost their jobs to go up to 79 weeks of benefits ... and that certainly could be extended out for people who haven't qualified for it yet."
Reddy says the increasing length of unemployment is troubling as employers typically shy away from hiring those who have not worked for a length of time.
Peter Goodman, National Economic Correspondent the "New York Times," has traveled around the country and says the worse parts of the country for unemployment are places hit hardest by the housing crisis. "Parts of California, Oregon, Nevada, Florida, and then of course in Arizona, and the industrial Midwest has been hit really hard.
"What I am accustomed to hearing more and more is people telling me that the basic promise of middle-class life seems to be assaulted. I think there's just this tremendous uncertainty among people who have been out of work for a long time that they'll ever be able to work again; that they'll be able to send their children to college, save for retirement, or even just make next month's mortgage payment."
Ellen Hartnett's husband was laid off in February, after his company moved the family from Minnesota to California. Hartnett had quit her job for the move.
After months of being unemployed and going through the trials and tribulations of the job search, Hartnett says the family is still struggling.
"I think we cope with it in many different ways. You can't look for a job day in and day out, every single day. We have to find things to keep our spirits up. Volunteering really helps.
According to Sudeep Reddy, unemployment is expected to top 10 percent and will stay above that for much of next year.
Hartnett has a temporary job, but says that her family is completely dependent on unemployment assistance.
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