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Labor Day? More Like a Day Without Pay

For the nearly 15 million Americans who remain out of work, Labor Day is just another day off — without pay.

Empty Wallet
Empty Wallet

Ann Powers, an unemployed single mother of two, who used to be part of a two-income middle-class household, would ordinarily be spending this holiday in the Bahamas. Instead, she's going camping — just to get out of the house she still shares with her ex-husband.

"We both don't have enough money to get our own place," Powers explained.

She's just one of the millions who are struggling to get back on their feet after losing their jobs and drawing down their savings, wondering where the next mortgage payment is coming from.

Her ex lost his job around the same time she did, and while it seemed like a solid financial decision to hold onto the house, they've been on the brink of losing it for several months.

So, the worst of their problems isn't even living together — it's saving the house.

"It's a dance every time the mortgage comes due," she explained. "My ex has borrowed money from friends and relatives — but I don't have anyone to borrow from," she explains.

To make matters worse, her car was totaled just a few months after she got laid off. Neither she, nor her ex, who have fallen out of the middle class and into a giant pile of debt, can even afford to lease a car, nevermind to buy a new one.

Right now, they're carpooling with another family to get their boys, ages 10 and 12, to school and considering buying a car on Carsforagrand.com, which lists cars for sale under $1,000, when they can scrape together a thousand dollars.

Getting back into the dating world — without a job or car, mind you — is difficult enough, but it becomes that much more complicated when you're still living with your ex.

"You have to try to forget your ex is two floors above you!" Powers quipped.

So, Powers turned to comedy, the poor man's therapy. She writes a blog about her struggle to survive and support her family while she searches for a job — and love. And, she performs stand-up comedy at local venues in Washington, D.C., where she lives.

She's come to realize that looking for a job and love really aren't all that different.

"Looking for an entry-level job is like getting a starter boyfriend — you put your time in and move on!"

What you really want is an "executive-level relationship" — just like your job, she explained.

So, how do you get one of those — particularly when you still live with your ex?

"I decided: If employers can have a job fair, why can't I have a dating fair?" she said, only half-jokingly.

So, she invites potential suitors to come to her comedy shows, where she does a quick interview — just a few minutes.

"I figure, that's about the time you would spend with a potential employer at a career fair!"

In honor of Labor Day, Powers has penned a "Manifesto" for the unemployed, sort of a We're-Mad-as-Hell-and-We're-Not-Going-to-Take-It-Anymore rallying cry for the millions of unemployed who are still struggling to survive while everyone else talks about the recovery.

“We are 14.5 million individuals in the prime of our lives who have lost our place in the world of work,” the manifesto begins. “We declare ourselves too big to fail,” she writes in the manifesto. “We can and will help ourselves. We take jobs for which we are overqualified … We work odd jobs … We downgrade our lifestyles.”

And so, this Labor Day, you'll find this former marketing diva getting a tan in the dirt of a DC campground instead of the sands of the Bahamas, her boys in $3 T-shirts their aunt from Las Vegas bought them, her brow furrowed without Botox.

On the upside, she'll never have a shortage of material for her comedy show.

To read her full manifesto of the unemployed, which will be published on Labor Day, or just to check in on her adventures in job hunting and dating, check out her blog at GirlontheBrink.com.

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Questions? Comments? Write to ponyblog@cnbc.com.

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