Sometimes you just want to close your eyes, plug your ears, and hope the economic news somehow gets better. It's too discouraging to hear the somber headlines day after day. If you haven't been laid off, you know someone who has, or someone who narrowly avoided the dreaded call into the boss's office. Worse yet, analysts forecast a "jobless era" to come in America. Is it possible America will never really recover? So warned the latest Atlantic cover story, written by deputy managing editor Don Peck.

"The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little," Peck writes. "Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work."

Some small level of unemployment is necessary for a growing economy. But America has already passed that low threshold. Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz examines historic models and forecasts 8 percent unemployment in 2014. So we could be dealing with a problem that threatens the ties that bind our society together.

"We haven't seen anything like this before: a really deep recession combined with a really extended period, maybe as much as eight years, all told, of highly elevated unemployment," Shierholz told Peck. "We're about to see a big national experiment on stress."

Indeed, we're about to see a big national experiment on our theology of marriage and gender roles. Unemployment stresses the marital union like few other factors. And economic uncertainty can roil a family's ...

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