For some discouraged workers that have college degrees, they are not just looking for “a” job. They are frustrated they have not found “THE” job.


Amanda Vysocky, who holds a bachelors’ degree in interior design ,was laid off from her job as a regional merchandising manager in June 2011. Vysocky consistently searched for work until Dec 2012, when she put her job search on hold.


Vysocky no longer looks for work because she believes no work is available that will match her skills.


“I think jobs are being created, but they are being geared toward construction or the niche jobs,” Vysocky said.  “You’re not going to see me with a jackhammer on the side of the road.”


Over 1 million Americans are discouraged workers, according to the February 2012 unemployment situation report. Discouraged workers are unemployed workers who have looked for work in the last 12 months but not in the last 4 weeks.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not break down discouraged workers by education level, so the actual number of discouraged workers with college degrees is a mystery.


But the idea that some of the most educated members of the workforce have given up hope in finding work is troubling at best.


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A once optimistic worker becomes discouraged for a variety of reasons. After unsuccessfully searching for work, he may come to the conclusion that the perception that no work is available, he can not find work, he lacks training, or that employers think he is too old or too young.


The number of discouraged workers is small in comparison to the 14 million unemployed Americans or to the 6 million Americans out of the workforce but who want jobs. It is what discouraged workers represent – despair about the future economic outlook – makes them an important group to watch.


This group so difficult to track because discouraged workers they are, as Time magazine referred to them, “invisible workers.”


Discouraged workers are more alone or perceive themselves to be more alone a study done by Canadian research organization GPI Atlantic found. The study found that this leads to lower emotional and mental well being than workers in the labor force.


This sense of embarrassment is only compounded for discouraged workers with college degrees. The purpose of getting a college degree was to increase their economic opportunities, and now after years of schooling and median outstanding student loan debt balance at $12,800, their efforts seemed futile.


Vysocky spends her days in her apartment for fear of spending any of her unemployment compensation on gas or eating out, and out of fear of running into someone she knows.


“I was raised to go to school then go to work,” Vysocky said, “I feel like such a loser when I see someone, and I am able to say I went to school but I have no job.”


Some have organized unemployed and discouraged workers to bring them out of the shadows such as We’ve Got Time to Help, a group that connects the unemployed with volunteer opportunities. Few resources are available for specifically for discouraged workers.

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Discouraged workers are a part of the labor equation in good and bad economic times. In Nov. 2007, the month before the recession officially began and unemployment was at 4.7%, there were 349,000 discouraged workers. As expected, the number of discouraged workers has increased as a result of the Great Recession, increasing to 758,000 in August 2009.


The number of discouraged workers has hovered around 1 million for the past year, but the make-up of workers in this category has changed over the time period. In the last year, the number of male discouraged workers rose more than 200,000 while nearly 200,000 women have left the ranks of the discouraged.


Hope may be on the horizon.  In the February economic report, the labor force participation rate rose slightly to 63.9%, the first increase in months.


People considering re-entering the workforce fear employers will perceive gaps their resume as sign of laziness, lack of employability or skill attrition, which can add to a discouraged worker’s perception that they will be unable to find work.


Michelle Smith, area director of human resources at Omni Hotels, believe human resource professionals do abide by those stereotypes to their detriment.


“Gaps don’t have the stigma in modern HR departments. Unfortunately, there are more old school than modern HR departments.  “ Smith said,” “People need to stop looking at resumes like they used to because some really hard stuff has happened to good people.”


Smith advises those looking to get back into the workforce to denote on their resume why there is a gap on your resume.


“If you do have gaps, add a caveat like “position eliminated” or “left to take care of family,” Smith said. “That way, people will know why you have gaps or that you have been earnestly looking.”


A college degree is still statistically the best hedge against unemployment in this economic recovery. The 4% unemployment rate for college graduates is the lowest percentage among all educational, ethnic, and gender groups.


Vysocky said she does plan to start looking for work again soon, but it is hard knowing she may have to forgo compensation for years of training and experience. ‘


“I think it’s easiest to hire someone who doesn’t have expectations. I am used to having a job and I need a certain amount of money,” Vysocky said. “I think overqualified is way over used. I think it just means they need someone to pay less.”


Estimated Number of Discouraged Workers Feb.2011 – Feb 2012 (BLS Data)