What Catholics are doing about widespread joblessness

With the official numbers showing more than one out of 10 Americans jobless, another recent study says that an additional 10 percent of Americans lack adequate employment. It’s a safe bet that everybody reading this column either knows someone who has lost a job or has lost a job themselves. 

Two members of my own immediate family were laid off early in the economic crisis and have yet to find full-time work — and one of them is trying to support a wife and baby. Thankfully, at Our Sunday Visitor we’re bucking the trend; we’re actually hiring. (If you are interested, see www.osvjobs.com.) 

The societal impact of widespread unemployment can be devastating. I recently saw some data pulled together by economist Robin Hahnel showing that just “a 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate [leads] to, on average: 920 suicides, 648 homicides, 20,240 fatal hearts attacks or strokes, 495 death from liver cirrhosis, 4,227 admissions to mental hospitals and 3,340 admissions to state prisons — each tragedy impacting a network of connected lives.” That 1 percent increase also translates into a 2 percent drop in national economic output, which hurts those who are still employed. 

Commentators have spilled rivers of ink describing the likely long-term effects this period of joblessness will have on our culture and on institutions like marriage and the family. 

It is not surprising that so few of the un- or underemployed feel hopeful about finding work.

One silver lining, though, is the apostolates springing up among Catholics and in parishes. Across the country, dozens and maybe hundreds of parishes have established job banks and “career enrichment ministries.” 

If your parish has a jobs program, or if you know of a Catholic tackling the joblessness issue, please let me know at the address below or at feedback@osv.com. If possible, let me know how successful it has been. We’ve written about such programs before, and it’s a safe bet that we will be doing so again in coming months. 

If you’re out of work or know someone who is, don’t miss our Page 4 story, which is full of tips and advice from a veteran Catholic career counselor. And he frames the issue from the perspective of vocation and seeking God’s will: “The biggest question is not how do I get a job, but what should I be doing with the rest of my life?” 

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Also in this issue is the third installment in our 12-part series on “What every Catholic needs to know.” 

The focus this week is on the Church’s rich body of social teaching, perhaps especially appropriate when so many of our fellow Americans and Catholics are in need.