Lifestyle

How Nonemployed Americans Really Spend Their Weekdays

by Jed Oelbaum

January 7, 2015

Unemployment—the monkey’s-paw, be-careful-what-you-wish-for punishment for all those long days at work you spent yearning for freedom. Now here you are, filling your afternoons with this and that, applying to jobs you know you’ll never hear back from, eating cereal and milk out of an old tin can, and having tea parties with the cat. Vacillating between leisure, guilt, and bursts of inspired action, your future is uncertain; your time is dangerously unregimented, and your shirt is on inside out. Sound familiar?

Not everyone’s unemployment experience is of the tragi-comic variety, but almost 30 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 don’t have regular jobs and still somehow fill up their waking weekday hours. Every year, the American Time Use Survey polls thousands of people on the minutiae of their daily routines, and yesterday, the New York Times sorted through the responses of out-of-work individuals, graphing out a day in the life of America’s jobless. What do these people do all day? Men are more likely to watch TV and socialize, while women are more apt to spend their time taking care of others. Some, expectedly, look for new jobs, take classes, and otherwise better themselves. The unemployed also tend to sleep more and do more housework than most employed individuals. The Times visualizes the data a number of interesting ways, most notably drawing the distinctions between the behaviors of men and women—check out the piece for the full breakdown.

But with all due respect to the Gray Lady, and though it may lack the intellectual, data-driven heft of the Times’ analysis, GOOD’s own attempt to chart the course of a day in the life of the unemployed does a far better job of capturing the gritty human element of life without work. Originally published in our Work Issue, we’ve updated this flowchart by Todd Levin and Jennifer Daniel, which is appearing online for the first time—a perfect time-waster to get you through those long afternoons of “job searching” and “updating your resume.”  

Original flowchart by Todd Levin and Jennifer Daniel. Updated by Jed Oelbaum and Tyler Hoehne.

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How Nonemployed Americans Really Spend Their Weekdays