Why the Future Depends on Today’s Discouraged Workers

Posted: February 12, 2012 in Capitalism, The People's History
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Economists, investment advisors and political strategists are closely watching the unemployment rate. But few commentators acknowledge just how faulty the employment statistics are. One key problem is that a crucial group of people can’t be tracked and measured. These are the so-called discouraged workers, who have given up looking for employment. They are the economic equivalent of astrophysicists’ dark matter – the particles scattered throughout the universe that can’t be seen but have enough mass to alter the course of everything we can see.

There have always been discouraged workers, of course, but the recent recession has multiplied their number. And it has enlarged a related category, as well, those who could be described as disgruntled workers – the underemployed, who have been forced to accept jobs with fewer hours or lower pay than they would like. These two groups aren’t counted in the unemployment rate either because they aren’t listed as looking for work or because they are listed as already working.

The uncounted include people who lost their jobs and spent months unsuccessfully looking for new ones until they finally gave up; women, and some men, who would like to work but have decided it makes more financial sense to stay home and care for kids instead; and teenagers who have not been able to find entry-level jobs.  There are also older middle managers who have had to take early retirement even though they would prefer to continue working. To those groups, add anyone who lost a job and ended up having to accept a new one that was worse.

via Headline unemployment is down, but Bureau of Labor Statistic’s numbers don’t reflect the underemployed and discouraged workers | Business | TIME.com.

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