With unemployment at 6.5%—a 16-year high—one-stop job centers, the “emergency rooms of today’s economy,” are facing a flood of applicants, the New York Times reports. Some 20 million are likely to use federal employment programs this year, compared to 14 million 3 years ago. And while Congress has extended unemployment benefits, the budget for such programs has been shrinking since 2000.
Those crowding into the centers are “a mix of the most vulnerable and people who are in a state of shock,” says a former government economist. They tend to be unskilled, poorly educated, and “disproportionately black or from immigrant communities,” the Times notes. But not everyone lets their lot get them down. “Things have to get better because it can’t get any worse,” said one applicant.