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Unemployment and Underemployment

Unemployment and Underemployment are two sides of the same coin – both conditions are harmful to individual workers, families, communities, and the overall economy.

Unemployment refers to the percentage of the labor force that is without work, but available for and seeking employment.

Underemployment describes people who are working – just not as much as much as they’d like or to the full extent of their abilities, skills, or education.

Losing a job or being underemployed results in both psychological and financial trauma, and the two are closely intertwined,” says Carl Van Horn, PhD, a professor of public policy and an expert on workforce and unemployment policy at Rutgers University. 

Effects of Unemployment/Underemployment

Unemployed and underemployed individuals face challenges that get worse and worse the longer a person is out of work. Common disadvantages for individuals include:

Reduced income

  • A direct result of unemployment and underemployment is reduced income; losing the wages from a job immediately slashes the individual’s available income. Underemployment brings in too little money to meet the individual or family’s needs.
  • After losing a job, people often rely on their savings or are forced to borrow money for basic needs – food, shelter, clothing, transportation. If the primary worker in the family is unemployed or underemployed, the difficulties are more serious – they must find a way to support themselves and their families.
  • With underemployment at 6.6%, low-income workers can no longer support their households.  Recent increases to minimum wage – to $15 per hour – were initially encouraging, but inflation has driven up the cost of basic needs so high that even increased wages cannot keep up with the cost of living.

Health problems

Employment problems often come with stress-related health issues such as headaches, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, back pain and insomnia. Without the health insurance typically provided to full-time employees, people often skip expensive self-pay doctor visits and medications.

Unemployed and underemployed people also cannot afford preventative measures like healthy foods and gym memberships, which also increases health risks.

Negative familial effects

The whole family suffers when household members are unemployed or underemployed. According to the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the negative impacts seriously affect spouses and children in a number of ways:

  • Mothers’ emotional health
  • Low infant birth weight
  • Lower academic performance for children
  • Low self-esteem for all family members
  • Lower future earnings of all family members

Effects on Society

High unemployment and underemployment rates lead to higher poverty rates and poorer neighborhoods with sub-standard housing, poorly funded schools and social programs, food deserts, scarce recreational activities, and difficulty accessing public transportation.

Employment Disparities

By January 2023, overall unemployment in US had dropped to 3.4% from the staggering numbers – as high as 12.9% – during the COVID pandemic. Florida’s unemployment rate currently stands at 2.5%, which sounds pretty good, but among people of color, the news is not as encouraging. Unemployment stands at 5.5% for African Americans and at 3.9% among Latinos.

There are many reasons why the unemployment rate among minorities is different than the national average. Historically, immigration policies, the struggle for civil rights, education disparities, and high rates of incarceration for people of color all impact the unemployment picture.

Underemployment rates are on the rise in the US; with gas and grocery prices steadily rising, part-time, low-paying or low-skill jobs just aren’t enough to support a household.  Older workers and immigrants often are underemployed, unable to compete with recent graduates and younger workers, with more up-to-date skills and willing to work for less.

ECHO’s Back To Work Program

ECHO’s mission is to bridge the gap between crisis and stability which involves much more than satisfying immediate food and clothing needs. Unemployment and underemployment can quickly cripple families and plunge them into instability. ECHO’s Back to Work programs offer valuable assistance to neighbors experiencing unemployment or underemployment. Whether you are jobless or underemployed, these programs can help you improve your work situation.

ECHO’s Job Readiness Program Includes:

  • Skills assessment – a comprehensive look at your job history, talents, and skills
  • Resume creation or updates – tips on how to make your resume and cover letter stand out in a crowd
  • Job search – a dedicated Job Coach helps explore and connect you to job opportunities
  • Learning Lab – Links to online job training programs are available 24/7
  • Interview skills – interview preparation and practice to put you at ease when you score an interview
  • Opening doors – ECHO builds relationships with local employers and personally connects you to hiring managers.

All ECHO services are offered absolutely FREE!  Click here to schedule a meeting with a job coach.   https://echofl.org/back2work/

ECHO Mobile Job Coaches Meet You Where You’re At

Transportation can be a huge barrier to employment and/or to getting assistance. The ECHO Mobile Back to Work program meets neighbors at a location in their immediate community and works to help them find work in that same community. The same back to work programs are offered in office and out of office.

ECHO’s Opportunity Center Director, Dianne Horncastle, is encouraged by the success of the mobile back to work program. “A young couple who spoke only Spanish came to the Brandon office for assistance.  A bilingual job coach helped them update their resumes and encouraged them to attend a job fair the very next day.  A Mobile Back to Work job coach met them at the job fair and helped them navigate the process. Delightfully, they both left with a job offer.  This all happened in the course of two days.”

Some Valuable Tips from the ECHO job coach team:

Resumes should be just enough to spike interest.

  • Keep your resume concise (one page is optimal)
  • Keep the most relevant information in the top 1/3 of the page; the hiring manager can very quickly see your skill level
  • Personal addresses do not belong on a resume; for your personal privacy and safety
  • Do Not use font size smaller than 11 or margins smaller than .5

Use Google search to find jobs of interest but always proceed directly to the company website to apply.  You will not only ensure the job is still open, but will have a more direct line to the HR manager. “Easy Apply” is easy, but not always the fastest way to the hiring manager.

When you apply for a job, copy and paste or download the job description to your computer. When you are called for the interview, the job may no longer be online making it hard to prepare for the interview without the specific job description

The ECHO job coaches have many tips for you.  Request an appointment at https://echofl.org/back2work/

Career Onestop offers a Skill Assessment Online Questionnaire –  It’s 30 quick questions that takes about 5 minutes to learn about careers that might be best for you.


Our mobile Back to Work is supported by the community through the United Way strategic community partner's grant

Our mobile Back to Work is supported by the community through the United Way strategic community partner's grant

This page is sponsored by Car Credit  

Steve Cuculich, Tampa-based philanthropist and owner of Car Credit, understands the critical importance of transportation for a low-income family. “At Car Credit,” he says, “we guarantee that your credit will be accepted, plus we offer a 2-year warranty to keep your car on the road in lean times. Ensuring that you have reliable transportation to get to your job every day is a big step in stabilizing your family’s finances.”

Mia is just one of the many children whose parents come to ECHO Food Bank

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