Better Life Lab

The New Unemployment

How can laid-off workers bounce up instead of spiraling down?


Episode Notes

Being unemployed in the United States is bad for you.

It’s bad for your mental, physical, and emotional health. Bad for your family stability. Bad for your ability to survive.

It’s just bad news, period.

The research shows that laid off workers are 83 percent more likely to report a stress-related condition. And as we look at the future of work, that’s a problem for the American economy. Because one of the big questions about the American workplace is: What if, in the future, we actually have less work—and more unemployment?


Kiarica Shields, hospice nurse in Georgia who lost her job early in the pandemic, and eventually lost her home and her car. Her unemployment insurance stopped inexplicably, and after her appeal, she was told she was ineligible for coverage because she worked a single day on another job.

Mark Attico, furloughed at the start of the pandemic from his job planning business travel. Was on unemployment for months, and with the pandemic supplement his income was actually enough to pay his bills, and gave him time to reconnect with his teenage son - and hold out for a better job that fit his skills and paid well.

Dorian Warren, co-president of Community Change.

Sarah Damaske, author of The Tolls of Uncertainty: How Privilege and the Guilt Gap Shape Unemployment in America.


Reforming Unemployment Insurance: Stabilizing a system in crisis and laying the foundation for equity, a joint project of Center for American Progress, Center for Popular Democracy, Economic Policy Institute, Groundwork Collaborative, National Employment Law Project, National Women’s Law Center, and Washington Center for Equitable Growth, June 2021

A Playbook for Improving Unemployment Insurance Delivery, New America New Practice Lab, 2021

A Plan to Reform the Unemployment Insurance System in the United States, Arindrajit Dube, The Hamilton Project, April 2021

How Does Employment, or Unemployment, Affect Health, RWJF, 2013

Single transitions and persistence of unemployment are associated with poor health outcomes, Herber et al, 2019

The Toll of job loss, Stephanie Pappas, American Psychological Association, 2020


About the Show

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate. All episodes