Since the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935, states have given assistance to individuals who find themselves between jobs. While that safety net has existed in some form for the last eight decades, most full- and part-time American workers view unemployment as the government program they hope to never use.
According to a recent yearlong online survey by Monster, however, more than half of the 1,000 fully employed Americans between 18 and 65 years old who responded have either been unemployed or experienced career gaps.
Conducted as part of Monster's State of the Candidate series, the survey found that the average length of respondents' gap in employment is 25 months.
These figures come days after the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Employment Situation Summary for February. According to the bureau, the country's overall unemployment rate went down from 4 percent in January to 3.8 percent last month, but the total non-farm payroll employment saw an increase of just 20,000.
With experts expecting the U.S. economy to slow down soon and a possible recession on the way, Monster's study suggests Americans are familiar with employment gaps. [Related: Beginner's Guide to Unemployment Insurance]
Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they had been unemployed or had a small gap in their career, according to Monster's data. For that group of individuals, officials delved into the reasons they became unemployed in the first place.
According to the survey, the most prevalent reason that respondents said they experienced an employment gap was family matters (48 percent).
Among those citing family reasons for their unemployment, the most prevalent reason (18 percent) was needing to take time off to help raise a family. This group said they generally needed more time than the maternity or paternity leave available to them. This reason was more common among women (26 percent) than men (9 percent). Individuals who cited paternity and maternity leave as their reason made up 15 percent of respondents. Women were more likely (21 percent) to claim this reason than men (8 percent).
Sometimes, an illness or the health condition of a family member or friend takes people away from their jobs. Approximately 15 percent of those citing family reasons said they needed to take time off to help a loved one. This reason was more common with Americans 18 to 34 years old (22 percent) than those 35 to 65 years old (10 percent).
Most workers fear the prospect of unexpectedly losing their jobs and dread the major impact it can have on a person's life. People can be fired or laid off for many reasons, including some that are completely out of their control, and approximately 43 percent of the survey respondents who had either been fired or laid off reported it had happened to them more than once.
Monster's data showed that among its survey participants, 59 percent said they had experienced a sudden gap in their career. More than one-third of respondents (37 percent) said that gap was due to layoffs. [Related: Why You Should Hire Candidates Who Have Been Laid Off]
With the specter of layoffs hanging over many Americans' heads, it's no surprise that many do not feel secure in their jobs. Monster's data found that, among the many reasons respondents feel insecure about their current jobs, the threat of company layoffs was the biggest one (38 percent). Other concerns included not meeting expectations (23 percent) and worries that their boss doesn't have trust in them (16 percent).
Even employees who have never been laid off feel uncertain about their jobs. Regardless of whether they'd been laid off before or not, 48 percent of respondents said they did not feel secure in their current position.