Rising Unemployment

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at financial analysis and forecasting firm IHS Global Insight and the author of Spin Free Economics , discusses the rising unemployment figures, released today.


Nariman Behravesh

Comments [32]

Michael Halverson from Manhattan

People are getting laid off every day and many don't know how to handle their health insurance and can't afford their COBRA rates.

To help people in this situation New York has a state sponsored plan ran through private insurance companies that is under $300 dollars a month for an individual and low rates for families. It's easy to sign up for. You just have to get in touch with an agent and schedule an appointment to fill out the paperwork.

I am an agent and can help anyone with insurance inqueries.

If you need help please give me a call at (801)580-0404.

I am in Manhattan

Dec. 05 2008 03:05 PM
Rachel J. Minter from Manhattan

I originally tried to call in to correct your guest’s misinformation about COBRA, glad to see “Karen from Manhattan” caught it, but there are many points to be made about issues touched on during the segment this morning, such as picking yourself up after termination, or ongoing medical coverage. I have practiced employment and labor law for 30 years, and have counseled many clients who have just lost a job, a number obviously increasing dramatically in recent weeks.

I tell clients that it is very common to feel some combination of depression, anger and/or anxiety, especially if you have been there for a long time, but you have to put that aside to go on interviews, because those emotions turn off potential employers. Shrinks and friends are critical. Clients often pooh-pooh outplacement when they see it in their severance agreement, but it can help update your resume and focus your job search. Most important, it gets you out of bed if you’re depressed or worried and over to your cubicle in the outplacement office to send out resumes and account to your counselor for your job search efforts.

As to medical insurance, ideally a severance package would keep you on the company’s coverage for the period of severance pay, then switch you over to COBRA. The employer may pay for severance-period coverage or for several months of COBRA premiums, but equally important is the maximum amount of guaranteed group medical coverage. (Ex: On company plan for six months, 18 months of COBRA, if all else fails you can be covered for two years). Once you are paying for the insurance yourself, do not miss a premium, even if you have to eat crackers for the last week of the month. You will be fully covered in your new job only if you have continuous group coverage without a gap; otherwise the new insurer can exclude pre-existing conditions for the first 11 months that you are on the plan.

Dec. 05 2008 01:13 PM
Joy from Brooklyn

This is a comment for the upcoming segment on unemployment benefits.

I am a chef and was laid off from a corporate salaried job in February. I eventually applied for and received the max $405 benefit amount.

I was very confused and discouraged by the system which proposes to support you as you search for new work but seems to punish you when you do take a gig. Short term gigs can lead to long term employment!

The situation was, I took a 3 day temporary demonstration gig and claimed the $600 or so that I made for that work. My benefits were halted and it was extremely difficult to speak to someone sympathetic to my situation. I was really frightened and when I finally did talk to a representative that was willing to work with me, she explained that claiming that income on my weekly benefits claim was a RED FLAG situation, but that she would get it reinstated soon.

I was required to fill out paperwork and send it in to the company that employed me (3 days) to have them varify my version of the work that was done for them and how much I was paid. This company which had been very excited about my services, reticently completed the paperwork and never called me again! They were worried about getting into trouble!! I looked for work and was honest and in turn I was humiliated and lost out on a great opportunity! Why?

Also, the representative that I ended up speaking to did me a favor! What happens to the people that are not able to make a good case or end up speaking to a rep that is not so sympathetic?

Sorry so long, but I think this is something that should be addressed.


Dec. 05 2008 12:00 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Oh, & 1 of the 1st things I did when I lost my last full-time job in 1994 was sign up for computer classes. I didn't own a computer yet (OK, maybe the 1st thing I did was buy one!), & I'd been working on paper at my job. In more general terms, it's a good idea to update your skills to help w/your job search.

Dec. 05 2008 11:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I have to partially disagree w/the caller who said to volunteer only in areas that don't use your professional skills. Pro bono work can get you contacts, experience, & referrals, & work samples if that applies to the type of work you do.

Dec. 05 2008 11:54 AM
ARB Welah from Manhattan

Dear Brian,

As I was listening to your show this morning on rising unemployment, I was reviewing the NY State Unemployment website. It's reasonably straight forward and even tells you how to calculate your benefit. Here is the web address:

I didn't see anything related to benefits for the self-employed (which I am, or was for 9 years). When you do your follow-up on what to do once you become unemployed, please include information for the self-employed.

Thank you!

Dec. 05 2008 11:40 AM
Kerrie from Bronx NY

Reply to Ben's comment: is better because it has a much wider web search, that often includes Monster and many more job sites. I would also recommend being creative in your search, get out and go to SIBL NY Public Library on 188 Madison Avenue. They have great databases on NY and national companies. Ask for help or go to a class to maximize your results.

Dec. 05 2008 11:39 AM
Christine from Clinton Hill

Re: COBRA- I'm with Franci from Roosevelt Island and her #3 comment. I used my COBRA benefits and wish I hadn't, because they are so expensive, and they sapped my savings badly. I wish I'd found the health plan I now have, back then (2006). I get them thru the artists' organization Fractured Atlas and they're decent. The people at Frac At are excellent to deal with, too.

Dec. 05 2008 11:38 AM
Joe the Actor from Brooklyn

Brian~ If you use up all your benefits BEFORE the expiration date then you get 13 weeks extension. BUT the 13 weeks is only until the date that your original claim expires. In other words, if your claim expires in February 2009 and you draw on the entire claim by November, you will have 3 months extra to draw from on the original claim. After this you have to open a new claim.

Dec. 05 2008 11:36 AM
tom ali from eastern suburbs

the last time i was laid off, in 1996,i took out a classified advertisement offering my services as a lawn mower and gardener/handy man. i answered every call, gave unbeatable prices and have not been unemployed since. now i'm making between $35 and 45 an hour and am self emplyed in an unoutsource job.

Dec. 05 2008 11:30 AM
Ellen from Greenpoint/Williamsburg

1. When being terminated, ask for more severance pay, more have nothing to lose. And often you will get it.
2. Take a couple of days off to sleep, relax, let it sink in.
3. Assess your financial situation and how much money you have in the bank/how much retirement savings you might have.......though nobody wants to use this, it's a safety net.
4. Apply for unemployment insurance.
5. Reach out to friends, former employers/coworkers, any contacts.
6. Update your resume and portfolio (if applicable).
7. Most importantly: do three things every day to find a job. Whether is is looking at job sites, sending out a letter of inquiry, reaching out to a contact, or sending out a resume.
8. DO NOT FEEL BAD......there is no stigma to being unemployed or fired...most people have been at some point in their lives or will be.

Dec. 05 2008 11:29 AM
Laura from Staten Island

I got laid off soon after 9/11, and my advice is don't burn your bridges. Don't react with anger to your old boss or co-workers. Hold your head up, and leave gracefully. Then you have more options for referrals. Before I left that job, I went to all of my co-workers and politely asked if they had any contacts for me. I left gracefully, and then built my freelance business by calling all of the contacts that my old co-workers gave me. I had a 50% response rate, and made more money that year than I did the year before. It's who you know, so don't burn bridges on your way out.

Dec. 05 2008 11:29 AM
Joe the Actor from Brooklyn

Michael good point I forgot: check out and sign up for a weekly email alert. It lets you know what's happening all over the city.

Dec. 05 2008 11:28 AM
Joe the Actor from Brooklyn

I have to say that I think as an actor who is constantly hustling for some sort or work that I may be able to sustain a Status Quo in my life during all this. Tough thing is that the general public is not used to losing their jobs on a regular basis.

Develop your skills and be willing to take anything on to get you to the next permanent job. Have a schedule daily. Don't allow idleness to keep you idle. Having a place to go daily and a routine will keep you on task. Even if it's a workout class or meeting a buddy for a run or walk.

Make sure you have SOME money coming in, either unemployment benefits or part time temp work, or something so you don't constantly feel frantic.

Brian, you should have artists call in and ask them how they cope. Personally I can wait tables, and have done so everywhere from a neighborhood bar to the Four Seasons; temp in a wide variety of work environments; clean apartments (I don't love this, but it pays some small bills); and am a fitness instructor.

Dec. 05 2008 11:27 AM
Adam Cohan from Manhatttan

I have been laid off before as I am a stagehand it it happens a lot in my industry. I have collected unemployment during these periods. I make about 1250 a week before taxes, which after union dues and my 401k winds up being about 720 a week. Unemployment benefits for me are 405 a week. Go sign up for this people. While you work you pay in, when you're out of work you should at least get your money back. Hope this helps.

Dec. 05 2008 11:27 AM
KC from NYC

I was on COBRA for a little while. Even on the sliding scale of outrageous health insurance premiums, it was OUTRAGEOUS. It was clearly engineered with one thing in mind: Get people off COBRA.

Dec. 05 2008 11:23 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

I have absolutely no idea if I qualify for the 20 week extension. I have called every number I can get for NYS UE and can't get any information. I qualified for benefits from work that ended in January but have only started in September - so I have money left in my cache but it will expire next month. Can I extend?

Dec. 05 2008 11:23 AM
hjs from 11211

real salaries have fallen since the 60's so isn't deflation one way our salaries can catch up to regular inflation?

Dec. 05 2008 11:22 AM
Gerry Lesk from Manhattan

Don't take it personally, relax and get used to it. I've been unemployed since the end of '06, and started out thinking it would not last long. Now that it has, and I've turned 60, I'm still plugging away and still hope to
get back to work. My advice:
1 Stay in touch with your former co-workers
2 Don't think that all the job hunt sites on
the internet can help that much: get out of
house and keep networking, meeting people
and presenting yourself face-to-face to
people in the industry you're trying to get
back to.

Dec. 05 2008 11:22 AM
Robert from NYC

Yeah, right, the risk of a depression is relatively low. Uh, they've been telling us for a year that we're not into a repression and just last week we find out we've been in a repression for a year!! How stupid are we (read YOU)!

Dec. 05 2008 11:20 AM
rhonda from New York

The first thing I did when I lost my job was buy a pair of shoes. I saved them for my first day on the next job. It was a personal promise that things were going to get better.

Dec. 05 2008 11:18 AM
esquared from East Village

File for unemployment, first! Take a couple of days off to let the reality sink in, think and clear one's mind and set one's priorities. From that point on one can either sulk, stay in bed, depressed, watch TV, eat junk food... or move on -- do adventurous things, travel, skydive, learn a new language -- go back to school, see friends and family, and of course, get a new job

Dec. 05 2008 11:17 AM
Karen from Manhattan

Correction: the INDIVIDUAL COBRA monthly premium is $750.00 per month. Family coverage is much more expensive.

Dec. 05 2008 11:17 AM
Michael from NYC

Buy a cheap bottle of wine(other choice of drink).

Go home. Open it. Drink it very slowly while accepting that you will not even afford yourself this crap for a loooong period.
Make a decision to get up at 6 am every day Monday through Friday and do your job search early.
Use Google or whatever tools to have automated alerts for anything you need to assist you in your search.

if you don't already. Start to exercise. And do it on a regular basis. Cheap style, no membership for $100+ month.

Live cheap, healthy, maybe a bit boring. But make sure you take advantage of free entertainment. (get a subscription on Time out and find all the freebees)

Good luck

Dec. 05 2008 11:17 AM
Ben Kaplan from Manhattan

Has anyone had any luck with websites like

Dec. 05 2008 11:16 AM
Franci from Roosevelt Island

I also paid off the loan I made to my 403b (the nonprofit version of 401k) and immediately transferred my money from that account to an IRA in a company I trusted.

Dec. 05 2008 11:15 AM
Karen from Manhattan

COBRA: 18 months, family benefit costs $750.00 per month.

COBRA kicks in when your employer's plan terminates, so if your employer extends your membership in its plan, you have a cushion (assuming that you can afford COBRA), because the 18 months won't start to run until the employer's plan terminates.

Dec. 05 2008 11:15 AM
Peter Krass from Brooklyn

I was laid off twice during the last downturn (2001-2002)...first thing I did was go out for a night of drinking with friends. It helps to have your friends close by. And it helps to drink away your cares, at least for 1 night.

Dec. 05 2008 11:14 AM
Kerrie from Bronx NY

I am unemployed, not because I lost a job, but because I just finished my MBA in finance and am struggling to find a job. My recommendations to others are to get out and network, and don't take rejection personally. You never know who knows who.

I also cut coupons, cook from scratch, and comment on Brian Lehrer show :)

Dec. 05 2008 11:14 AM
Franci from Roosevelt Island

My company gave me a 30-day notice so I did the following, in order:
1) spent the remainder of the FlexPay dollars I had set aside, the health care money employees can use for non reimbursed expenses.

2) the first day of actual unemployment, signed up for my unemployment benefits

3) researched affordable health care that would be much better than the $773 COBRA benefits

4) visited the outplacement service the company provided (no help there, though)

Dec. 05 2008 11:13 AM
Corey from Minneapolis

When the Internet bubble burst in 2001, I was laid off during the recession / 9/11 timeframe. I was designing and programming stuff for the web, so I set up a small business for freelancing. Instead of 1 steady permanent job, I ended up with multiple short-term contract gigs. It's a little more shaky way of making a living, but very satisfying and gave me the opportunity to learn far more than I ever would have in one permanent job. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. 7 years later, I have a good permanent job because of what I learned during that time, plus I still freelance. If I'm laid off again, I already have other ways to make a living!

Dec. 05 2008 11:13 AM
Anne from Manhattan

When I got laid off during the dotcom bust, I sold all my stuff and moved to Maui.

This is what NOT to do.

It was lovely for the six months, then I got terribly lonely and broke. I had to go back to Cali and move in with a very generious friend until I could find some work again. It took 18 months to get an interview.

Dec. 05 2008 11:11 AM

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