The Recession’s Economic Trauma Has Left Enduring Scars

By:  Ben Leubsdorf

Gary Reece was earning six figures when he lost his tech-industry job in 2000. He was making about half his old salary when he was laid off again in 2008. Now 61 years old, unemployed and looking to improve his odds in the job market, he left his family in San Jose, Calif., for a few months this year to live in a college dormitory and finish a long-abandoned bachelor’s degree.

He is looking for more than a paycheck. “Everywhere you go, when you meet people it’s, ‘What do you do?’ ” Mr. Reece said. “You don’t have much of an identity with that question if you say, ‘I don’t do anything.’ ”

The recession ended seven years ago, but persistent joblessness and underemployment marred the economic expansion that followed. A growing body of research suggests the economic trauma has left financial and psychic scars on many Americans, and that those marks are likely to endure for decades.

About one in six U.S. workers became unemployed during the recession years of 2007, 2008 and 2009. Today, nearly 14 million people are still searching for a job or stuck in part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work.

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