[The following profile is part of a series on long-term unemployment in America.]
John Schmidt has been out of work for 150 weeks. Due to complications regarding his official date of termination, he is still eligible for weekly checks from the government.
“It’s absolutely retarded, but I’m not going to turn it down.“
Schmidt has been unemployed since April, 2009 when he lost his job as a database architect at JC Penney.
Fired for health reasons, Schmidt says he wanted to sue but no lawyers in the Dallas area would go against the local corporation.
In his first year of unemployment, Schmidt spent most of his time day trading.
“In all honesty I wasn’t looking real seriously. I got started in the stock market and was doing well with it, got rolling more and a little more and really that’s what I did for most of the first year. At the same time, I was still looking for a job, meeting the requirements for unemployment. But I wasn’t looking all over the country. I was looking for the perfect job.”
Schmidt’s luck ran out around August 2010.
First his Countrywide mortgage was transferred to Bank of America, and a billing fiasco forced him to take money out of his trading account. Then he started losing money on the market. In less than a year, the bank had foreclosed on his house and Schmidt was forced to declare bankruptcy.
When Schmidt began to look seriously for jobs he was surprised at his difficulty.
“I’m one of the original people [in Hyperion Essbase software]. I never even thought about not getting a job. If I wanted a job I got it, period, for 10 years,” Schmidt says.
“Now I apply and I go on interviews and they say ‘you’re overqualified for this job’ … or they say ‘you haven’t done anything for the past two years.’ I was blown away and amazed at how difficult it is for me to get a job. If you told me a year after getting laid off I would still be unemployed I would have said you’re nuts. Three years after is absolutely insane.”
Despite his own difficulties, Schmidt has little respect for the long-term unemployed who live off of government checks: “No wonder people aren’t getting jobs, they have no motivation.”
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