Unemployed Cry for Help (and Work) on Craigslist

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There’s no shortage of grim employment statistics floating out there. For example, only 63.5% of men ages 21 to 54 had jobs in July, and one or more people have lost jobs in nearly half of American households since 2008. While the numbers tell one part of the story, free ads posted on Craigslist by people who are out of work and desperately seeking paid employment show a more personal side of today’s horrendous jobs market.

Since the onset of the recession, people have taken extreme, often outlandish steps to try to secure jobs. There was a woman in Texas who offered a $1,000 reward to anyone helping her find employment, and the unemployed marketing executive willing to pay up to $25K for assistance landing a job. An entire movement was started under the name “I need a freakin’ job.”

A new USA Today story digs into the latest signs of desperation felt by the unemployed millions. Checking the pulse of America’s out-of-work masses is as simple as browsing ads posted on Craigslist by the jobless around the country, who are willing to do almost anything if it means earning a little cash. At a time when landing a full-time job is increasingly out of the question, any short-term gig provided for random strangers—painting, dog sitting, scrubbing toilets—is welcomed.

(MORE: 5 Weird Things People Are Stealing While the Economy’s in Bad Shape)

While workers list the services they’re willing to provide, the ads are often bolstered with personal stories—explanations of why they’re out of work, and subtle pleas for help. One unemployed man from Jacksonville, Fla., for example, revealed part of his situation this way:

In his post, Lawrence Gales, 33, says he is “a hard worker, honest, dependable, with reliable transportation,” he writes. “Also I have a 3-year son that I am trying to support. I do lawn care, auto cleanup, pressure washing, painting.”

The ad has helped Gales find jobs here and there. Some gigs are more worthwhile than others: In one instance, he earned just $20 after working for a man for three days.

(MORE: Survey: Job Market’s Been Bad for Everybody, But Worse for the Less Affluent)

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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