All the [depressing] news that’s fit to print….

November 18, 2013 at 9:12 pm (Icepick) ()

From the New York Times, a depressing story about what it is like to be long-term unemployed. This largely matches the experience that I’ve had, and the experience of those I know in this boat.

If long-term joblessness is cyclical, a growing economy should bring people back into the job market. But if structural factors are at play, the concern is dire for the whole economy, with a normal unemployment rate “significantly higher than what has been achieved in the past,” said Janet L. Yellen, the presumptive new Federal Reserve chairwoman, in a speech this year.

Right now, most economists argue that unemployment remains primarily cyclical. Ben S. Bernanke, the departing Fed chairman, made this point last summer, adding that an unemployment rate in the 5 percent range — an indication of a healthy economy — was still obtainable. Growth simply hasn’t proved strong enough to spur businesses to hire all the people who want jobs.

Economists come to this conclusion in part because there is no evidence that the long-term jobless are accumulating in any one industry, which would be a signal that the economy needs to move workers from, say, manufacturing into nursing. Long-term unemployment has hit workers young and old, of all industries, races and backgrounds. But the long-term jobless actually tend to be more educated. [emphasis added] And long spells of joblessness have hit black workers especially hard, as well as single parents, the disabled and older workers.

With time, however, even people with desired skills can become “structurally” unemployed. Longer spells of unemployment become harder to explain away. Jobless workers’ skills can atrophy. Job seekers find it harder to appear eager. Wounds become scars.


  1. brunobaby said,

    I was a back-office employee in the financial services industry, laid off in 2009. Since then I’ve gone across all industries and all sectors, but the hiring budget is so tight it squeaks. What I’ve been is a technically skilled day laborer…when there is a day!

    Friends whose jobs haven’t been affected by the recession have asked me, “Why don’t you do something else?” What, like win lotto? It’s not like there’s a big “Else” out there that’s hiring people in droves and I refuse to train for this profession, stubbornly hanging on to being an icebox repairman or a buggy whip maker.

    And what gets me is that in previous recessions, there was an “else” I could move into, even if it meant starting all over again or moving a few rungs down. There’s no “else,” just an inch of daylight every now and then.

  2. mockturtle said,

    Meanwhile, Wall Street is flying high….

  3. Icepick said,

    brunobaby, I’ve gone through similar experiences to what you describe. If you try to take a job for less money than you made before, you will be rejected because they assume you will be unhappy. If you try to switch careers you will get turned down because they only want people with experience in the new field. If you try to just take any old job whatsoever, you will get turned down for any number of reasons, but mostly because they can’t believe that you won’t quit inside of a month because you’re unhappy.

    And once you pass the six month mark of unemployment, no one will even give you an interview.

  4. Icepick said,

    MT, Wall Street has been financed, both directly and indirectly, by the federal government to the tune of trillions of dollars. The super-rich got the bailouts this time. Just another sign of the rot in the Republic, and how we are turning into just another Third World kleptocracy.

  5. mockturtle said,

    Absolutely! And the higher our national debt, the more the banks make in interest. Big government is the best thing that ever happened to big business!

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