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Hard Work for the Unemployed in the Jobless Recovery

In the booming 1990s, when the jobless rate was in the low-single digits, there were two notable buzz phrases on the work-life balance.

Your Job, Your Life - A CNBC Special Report
Your Job, Your Life - A CNBC Special Report

"Get a life" was a common refrain in the office, for those dedicated workers whose career focus was, let's say, above and beyond. The point being a job may be a career but should never constitute a life.

"Get a job," the other social commandment, was aimed at the panhandlers and street people who, despite their apparent sound health and mental faculty, were unemployed and unendowed.

These days, the work-life balance is out of whack again, but in very different ways. The unemployment rate (9.2 percent) is the highest in decades and the number of long-term unemployed the most since the Great Depression. White-collar workers and public-sector workers are losing their jobs.

Job creation is slow; people are not returning to the workforce. Just 1.2 million jobs have been generated during the recovery. Almost seven million jobs have yet to be replaced since the peak of employment at the end of the last economic cycle. Sectors such asconstruction remain devastated. Payrolls are down more than two million from the peak of the building boom.

The impact on individual, family and community is profound, even if data are limited.

Numbing Numbers

The BLS will tell you, however, that the percentage of families with one unemployed worker hit 12.0 percent in 2010, up sharply from 2008 when the recession began and the highest level since the creation of the statistical series in 2004.

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During that same period, older workers, age 55 and older, were out of work for an average of 35.5 weeks, compared to 30.3 weeks for those 25 to 54 years old.

In February 2010, workers aged 55 years and older had an average duration of joblessness of 35.5 weeks (not seasonally adjusted), compared with 23.3 weeks for those aged 16 to 24 years and 30.3 weeks for those aged 25 to 54 years. Almost half (49.1 percent) of older job seekers had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

Meanwhile, those with jobs have been working harder and longer, picking up the slack as business expands but payrolls stagnate. In 2010, 35 percent of all workers worked at least one weekend day.

The job market is weighing on Americans' confidence, with almost 44 percent of those in a recent Conference Board survey saying jobs were hard to get.

For too many right now, the life glass is half empty—and for the poorer—without a job. Get a job sounds like a fine idea but some may have no idea where to find one.

Our special report, "Your Job, Your Life", won't tell you where to find one, but may help you cope a bit better while you're looking for one.