What Is a Dislocated Worker? The Definition and Everything You Need to Know

Stressed Woman in Bed

Adobe Stock

Leah Thomas
Leah Thomas866
April 16, 2024 at 11:30AM UTC

What is a dislocated worker?

A dislocated worker is someone who is no longer employed due to no fault of her own. There are several different causes to becoming a dislocated worker — all related to being laid off by an employer and most commonly due to a declining economy. Dislocated workers could also be self employed but no longer being able to sustain a self employment due to similar reasons.

How dislocation occurs

Dislocation occurs when an employer is no longer able to keep on an employee. This can happen when the economy is not doing as well as it previously was. For example, after the 2008 housing crisis, the economic recession had an astonishing impact on American companies and their employees. Over 2.6 million people in the United States lost their jobs and became dislocated workers during this time. 

Technological innovations can also create dislocation. Fast food workers and retail employees may become unemployed due to their positions being filled by computer ordering systems or self checkout lines. When this occurs, a person then becomes a dislocated worker.

Dislocation may occur after mergers, when the duplication of certain positions leads to one of the employees being let go. Or, after new competition moves to the area. If a similar company offering the same services for less money becomes more popular, the original company may be forced to induce mass layoffs or close altogether.

If a person is self-employed, they may experience dislocation when their business is no longer feasible. Self employment can include farmers, ranchers or fishermen, as well as freelance employees like freelance writers, freelance graphic designers and more. If a full-time freelance employee is no longer finding the work needed to support herself, she may become a dislocated worker. 

Dislocation can also occur to homemakers. A displaced homemaker is a person who dedicated her time to taking care of her family and was the dependent of another family member with a paid income but is no longer being supported by that person. Due to divorce or death or the loss of the other person’s employment, she becomes a displaced homemaker. 

And the spouse of an armed forces member can also be a dislocated worker. If the active duty member is transferred to another duty station and the spouse loses her job because of the relocation, she has become a dislocated worker. 

Dislocated worker examples

  1.  An assembly line worker at a factory has been laid off due to technological advancements. Normally, this will occur in groups — so the entire team of assembly line workers will become dislocated workers after being laid off by the company who is ultimately trying to save money via automation.
  2.  A shop owner’s store burned down in an accidental fire, causing not only the shop owner but her employees to become dislocated workers as they no longer have jobs.
  3.  A public school teacher was laid off due to the district cutting funding for arts programs. Her music theater class has been deemed nonessential.
  4.  An accountant at a technology company was laid off after a merger occurred between her company and another. Multiple employees with the same job title were not needed, and therefore, cuts were made. 
  5. A stay-at-home mom has recently separated with her husband. She now has no income or means of supporting herself financially. 

Dislocated worker programs

The government offers a variety of programs to help those who are now dislocated workers. 

  1. Employment and Training Administration: The ETA provides assistance to those who have been laid off or who are about to be laid off by their companies. They offer training programs and other job-searching services relevant to those in this situation.
  2.  Rapid response services: Customized based on you, your former employer and your needs, the rapid response services will work with you to get you employed again as soon as possible. 
  3. Career counseling: Career counselors will work with you to figure out your career goals and how to get you on the path to accomplishing them. 
  4. Resume preparation: The ETA offers resume help — updating, editing and proofreading your resume to increase your chances of being employed again.
  5. Interviewing workshops: They also prepare you for interviews, working to find the best way to answer common questions and to ensure you perform your best under pressure.
  6. Benefits: Discover how to maintain your health benefits after becoming a dislocated worker. 

Dislocated workers and the FAFSA

Students will be asked if either of their parent is a dislocated worker while filling out their FAFSA. Students whose parents are considered dislocated workers may be eligible for zero Expected Family Contribution.

Expected Family Contribution is the measure of one’s family to pay for their education. The lower your EFC is, the less you will be expected to pay for college. 

When calculating EFC, the government takes various factors into consideration. Factors include the total household income, the number of people in the family, the number of people currently attending school, and more. 

Having a parent be considered a dislocated worker lowers one’s EFC score and could even take it to zero depending on the other factors.

Next steps if you're looking for work

If you or someone you know has recently been laid off, Fairygodboss offers numerous job hunting tips and tricks!

  1. Update your resume: Make sure your resume includes keywords that hiring managers in your field are looking for (the job description for the position you're applying to is where you'll find relevant keywords).
  2. Tailor your resume to each position: As tedious and frustrating as this may be, it can truly help your chances of receiving a job offer at certain companies. 
  3. Be persistent: Don’t just apply for a job on the company website. Find the hiring manager and her email and reach out to her directly. It will show you took the initiative and you truly care about the job.
  4. Write a proper job application email: Follow this CEO’s tips to nailing this crucial email, including how to start and end your email as well as what format to include your resume in. 
  5. Utilize LinkedIn: Recruiters are constantly using LinkedIn to reach out about job openings. Take advantage of this. Update your profile, make sure you use a professional-appearing photo, and mark that you’re job searching!
  6. Network: Attend those dreaded networking events. You never know who you might meet who could make a difference in your future.
  7. Practice for your job interview: Prepare answers to common questions like “Why do you want to work here?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The more you practice, the less nervous you’ll be!

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always