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Mood Of The Nation: Some Optimism Amid Struggles

The couple dealt with Eiler's layoff from a Colorado Springs newspaper last December by indulging in diversions they lacked time for when they were working.

They fixed up and sold their century-old house in Colorado, went camping around the West in a vintage travel trailer and visited friends.

Then in July, they moved to Chicago, a city they'd always wanted to live in. Ditching most belongings, they rented a 350-square-foot studio apartment in the city's upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood and moved in with their two cats.

But the tightening squeeze of long-term unemployment threatens their future, as it does for many other Americans. More than 5 million people have been out of work for six months or more, up from 2.7 million when President Barack Obama took office.

Eiler, who worked as a copy editor, has been job-hunting unsuccessfully for nearly a year. He has found few suitable job openings in journalism or related fields â¿¿ and heavier competition than he expected.

Cragnotti brings home only limited pay from her photography and modest rental income from a house she owns in Los Angeles. Demand for the glamour photography she specializes in has dropped. So she is branching out to different kinds of photography in search of more income.

After Eiler's unemployment checks stop coming in December, they'll need to dip into savings to get by.

That could prompt more cutbacks to their lifestyle. Eiler remains optimistic. But he figures their standard of living "will have to be worse for a little while before it gets better."

"As bad as it might seem, the self-pity of not having a job, we're hardly eating out of a Dumpster," he says. "We're pretty fortunate." But, he adds: "It's more difficult than I thought it would be to find a new job.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, the first time it has dipped below 8 percent in 43 months, but ticked up to 7.9 percent in October.

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