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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — More than half of out-of-work Americans had exhausted their allotted unemployment benefits by the end of 2011, which raises an obvious and frightening question: What will they live on now? New government data suggests a minority of these workers end up finding steady employment again while many others are forced to rely on other sources of revenue.

Roughly a third of those who were laid off between 2007 and 2009 and exhausted their benefits in that time period were employed by January 2010, according to the latest survey estimates from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The other two-thirds were either unemployed or had given up looking for work, but in either case, they no longer had unemployment insurance to live on.

As the chart above from the GAO shows, the vast majority of those who used up their unemployment benefits (87%) had some earnings either from themselves or a member of their household in 2009. Moreover, nearly half received some income from interest payments, retirement funds, dividends or rental payments. Some 15% of those in this group also relied on food assistance programs from the government to get by – a number that has likely increased in recent years.

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For those who have used up their unemployment insurance and have no other source of income to rely on, check out MainStreet’s roundup of charities and government services that help cater to those who have completely run out of money.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.