Over the summer and fall of 2011, I drove across the country from southern California to New York City. I made the trip with filmmaker MJ Sieber, playwright Mallery Avidon, and — when she could escape her job — my wife, Tasha Garcia Gibson.

We occupied blistering hot sidewalks, trying to catch people outside unemployment offices; we attended church services where congregations provided guidance for the unemployed; we stalked business reporters, distant relatives, and recognizable Facebook friends, trying to find those who were laid off in the five-year span from 2007 to 2011, those who would be willing to tell the story of the day they lost that job, the circumstances that led up to it, and the consequences that followed.

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