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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why Is There Record Long-Term Unemployment?

Why aren’t many people who have been unemployed for more than six months able to get jobs?

Analysts say the long-term unemployment numbers now haven’t been this high since the Great Depression. Is it because they’ve become dependent on unemployment as some on the political right would say? Or is it because their skills are outdated they need training as many on the left would say?

According to new research, it’s neither.

Heidi Shierholz, economist at the non-profit, non-partisan Economic Policy Institute told Here & Now’s Robin Young that the underlying cause of long term unemployment is much larger. “It’s not a worker skills problem, it’s not that people are taking vacation on their UI [un-employment insurance] benefits. It’s because there is very weak demand for workers,” she said.

(Courtesy Economic Policy Institute)


  • Heidi Shierholz, economist at the non-partisan, non-profit Economic Policy Institute

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  • Csg52

    The numbers of unemployed will rise as long as “salaried workers” are working 60 and 70-hour weeks. Work that was once handled by five people is now being handled by one. How else would the one percent still be making monumental profits? They call it cost cutting, but it’s job cutting and working remaining crews long beyond a 40-hour week. There’d be more jobs if work was spread reasonably and the work week load lightened. People who fear job loss will work long hours (for less when salaries are based on a 35-hour week). 

    • Gerald Fnord

      Note that Social Security and Medicare are financed via wages, not via taxes on corporate profits or capital gains or dividends or interest on bonds.  If the productivity gains of our industries had been kept more in the wages of our workers, the reduced ratio of workers to beneficiaries wouldn’t matter.

      Why, it’s almost as if it were being siphoned off, lest our population feel less frightened of want and be less deludable thereby.

  • Nixl

    I was astonished to hear yet another program dealing with fantasy and the tooth fairy neatly folded into an NPR report. Yes, when in desperation, even an avowed atheist might turn to god; what harm can it do? But for NPR to publicize this and to let the guest blabber that once the unemployed accepted god (paraphrasing) their problem was solved and a job appeared….and was left unchallenged???? What part of statistical analysis gives us this result? Shame on NPR in joining with the religious right! If NPR slips into that trap, there is very little left in this country to champion rational thought in the public forum.

  • gacv

    I am a Career consultant in the Detroit area.  I was a volunteer speaker/leader for job seekers groups at 3 local churches.  In the fall of 2010 we had an average of 50 people in our classes.  In the fall of 2011t, all 3 job seekers groups were closed due to a lack of attendance.  We have a very high number of people out of work in the area, but people just will not attend the workshops any longer.  Many tell us that they have done all the recommended steps but still cannot find work.  Many are too burned out to continue their job search, and have given up.  I receive postings for open positions almost daily over the internet from various sources.  I notice that there are MANY job openings, even here in Michigan, for those trained in high tech skills that are sorely needed by Chrysler, Ford, and GM, and by those servicing the auto industry throughout the Metro Detroit area.  But we have a vast work force that does not have the necessary skill sets to
    be employable.  Many are blue collar workers who have formerly worked in
    the plants of the “Big 3″ auto makers 
    After the 2008 “bust” many highly skilled professionals left the State
    of Michigan and we have a shortage of highly skilled engineers and tech
    savvy professionals.  Great efforts are being made to recruit from out
    of state.  There are many jobs here in engineering, health care, and those with sophisticated “IT” skills.  Those without good solid skills in these areas continue to struggle to find work.   I had one client 66 years old who found another job.  He is a highly skilled automotive engineer and has been able to network into companies needing his skills.  To say there are NO JOBS is not true, well, not so in Detroit.  But having jobs for the average worker, woefully behind in tech skills, is a major problem, and unskilled workers are struggling desperately to find good jobs.  Many have given up and are feeling hopeless.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pamela-Kennedy/100001233602883 Pamela Kennedy

       People with the high-tech skills you require are probably more than a little bit AFRAID to move to DETROIT nowadays.

  • günter hiller

    The fundamental problem (I repeat) is the role of government.  I believe “The Right to Work”,
    as it has been instituted by Senator Robert A. Taft in the 1940′s, and is now increasingly adopted by the states, is a misnomer: It is, in reality this ” Right to Work Without Being Required to Join
    the Union.  It is solely designed to weaken the unions.  Everybody knows this. 

    What we must institute is “The Right for All Americans to Work.” 
    If private enterprise does not generate work enough work to provide decent housing, health care, education and food for all Americans, then the government has to do it. And it can.
    This must be understood as the government’s fundamental role and must
    be the focus of this election.

    I am not advocating the end of “free enterprise”.  I am arguing that we must address the
    chronic problem of poverty in the midst of plenty.  Shouldn’t this also be discussed in the
    context of  “religious freedom”?  Or are the self-confessed religious people turning a
    blind eye to the problem of poverty by limiting their concern to contraception and abortion?

    More broadly , it’s time we looked at ourselves in this technologically sophisticated, celebrity
    culture.  To simplify (and overstate) the matter: what we have is Opulence and Opium.


  • Ayn Marx 666

    Maybe there aren’t enough jobs because real human needs are finite, and in the end we’re decent at recognising when an implanted desire isn’t really a need…and we have far more than enough workers, here and in China, to meet those needs.

    Maybe it would be better if we all worked, but worked a lot less.  It might cut down on health costs, since both the stress of employment and the palliative techniques employed therefor—excessive eating, drugs, and fanatical religion—are very bad for us.

  • Rscrsm2000

    what rule says that there has to be  enough jobs available for those that want one?  Perhaps we have reached a point where there just will not be enough jobs for the population.  Are we at that point? That is my question..it seems that since the century started jobs have generally become more scarce…like water in a desert.  Compare and contrast job creation for every decade from 1960 to 2000 and then look at 2000 onward.  The information can be found at bls.gov.  Since 2000 job creation has gone off the cliff with our best year this century , 2005, worse than almost every non recessionary year from 1960 to 2000.  Maybe its time we make government an employer of last resort.  Or institute job sharing.  Maybe even a basic income.  Sooner or later a large unemployed underclass (like that which is currently forming ) becomes a bane to society and an abomination.  Don’t believe me? google french revolution 1789 or Russian Revolution 1917.  Massive unemployment with a small oligarchy leads to all sorts of fun and games….  

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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