updated 10/22/2003 5:20:28 PM ET 2003-10-22T21:20:28

Perhaps the defining feature of the current economic recovery is that to most middle-class Americans, it hardly feels like recovery at all. Although the recession presumably ended more than a year ago, the economy has lost jobs for five straight months, and the unemployment rate spiked to a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in June. Even for people who are comfortably employed, the specter of unemployment is pervasive, while for millions of unemployed workers, there is a sense of near-desperation. “My savings, which I have been using to supplement the unemployment, is gone,” said one reader in an e-mail to MSNBC. “I have NO idea what I will do.”

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