Gallup Poll: How Underemployment Hurts the Economy

Even with a full-time job, it can be hard enough to pay the bills. But for those who are unemployed or underemployed, that task is about three times harder, according to a Gallup Poll released Tuesday. The poll found that unemployed and underemployed Americans are three times as likely to fall behind on their bills -- and risk bankruptcy -- as those who are working.

About one in four people facing employment problems say they're facing financial difficulties, compared to about 8% of those who are fully employed, according to the survey. On average, about one in nine adults say they're facing financial challenges.

The survey illustrates how the lengthy period of high unemployment is trickling through the economy, forcing consumers to either cut back or stop paying bills all together. The U.S. unemployment rate, which fell slightly to 9.4% in December, has exceeded 9% for 20 straight months, the longest such streak on record.

Unsurprisingly, unemployed Americans between 30 and 49 years old are bearing the worst of the burden, as younger adults have fewer obligations and older adults may have had the opportunity to accumulate savings. More than a third of the unemployed in that middle category say they are falling behind financially, compared to 22% of younger adults and 19% of those between 50 and 64 years old, Gallup says.

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