While President Obama and the Congress are preoccupied with health care legislation and the war in Afghanistan, the unemployment elephant in the room gets larger by the month.

Nearly one fifth of American workers are jobless or are working fewer hours than they need, and their numbers keep growing. Official unemployment rates reached 10.2 percent nationwide last month, the highest since 1983. When underemployed and discouraged workers are included, the rate jumps to 17.5 percent. Los Angeles County, where the official unemployment in September was 12.7 percent, has been harder hit than much of the rest of the country.  

What do these figures mean for the daily life of the Angelenos who are unemployed and underemployed?  How are they making ends meet?   How are they spending their time? 

I propose to interview 100 adults in the city of Los Angeles who are unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged, and ask them to describe how they are surviving and what they are doing.  My 100 subjects will be evenly divided between men and women,  college-educated and not,  and they will represent at least 5 different areas of the city.

How will it help?

The news about unemployment rates has been focused primarily on the statistics -- percentages of unemployed, numbers of workers laid off.  The purpose of this story is to give unemployment a qualitative dimension,  to make it real.

We've heard from the soldiers who've returned stateside with PTSD and brain injuries.  Let's hear also from the foot-soldiers of capitalism, the people who may not have sustained traumatic injuries in war but are seeing their lives fall slowly apart because of the jobs crisis. Or perhaps I'll find that some of the unemployed have plenty of resources at their disposal to survive the rough patch in the economy, while others are on the edge of the abyss, about to lose their homes or end their marriages because of the economic pressures they face. To understand unemployment, and its effects on the daily lives of Americans, we need to hear from the unemployed in their own words.

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