We hear about declining unemployment statistics, but the truth is, the number of unemployed hover at about 8.5 million Americans and labor force participation is at its lowest rate in nearly 37 years. Wednesday saw the release of an even more depressing statistic: of the 8.5 million unemployed, 40 percent have given up even trying to find a job.
A Harris poll of 1,533 working-age Americans conducted for Express Employment Professionals, shows that three factors are working to hem employment and keep employees out of a job: a tight market, the so-called “skill-gap” between what employers want and what employees have, and benefits programs.
The CEO for Express Employment Professionals and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Bob Funk, said in a statement that, “This survey shows that some of the troubling trends we observed last year are continuing,” and, “While the economy is indeed getting better for some, for others who have been unemployed long term, they are increasingly being left behind.”
There is a bright side, however; this figure is down 7 percent from 2014.
Duration: The Thing That Keeps People Unemployed
Job hunting is often a soul-crushingly stressful experience and our society does little to mitigate that. The result of this is, the longer someone’s been unemployed, the more likely they are to have quit looking for a job.
It is also that much harder to get a job the longer you’ve been unemployed; employers often treat large gaps in your employment record as a red flag and are less likely to hire you as a result, creating a self-reinforcing problem. Then there’s the problem first-time workers often run into: you need job experience to get a job, but to get job experience, you must have a job.
Of the total [population polled], 55 percent who were unemployed for more than two years fell into the category; 32 percent of those idle for 13 to 24 months and 34 percent out for seven to 12 months had quit as well. Just 21 percent out for three months or less had stopped looking.
Overall, nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) said they spent no time looking for work in the week previous to the survey. Just 10 percent said they spent more than 31 hours looking.
The decline in labor force participation has been one of the reasons why the unemployment rate has fallen, as well:
The decline in labor force participation, in fact, has been a key to the drop of the unemployment rate in the post-recession economy. The jobless rate has slid from a high of 10 percent in October 2009 to its current 5.4 percent, the lowest level since May 2008. However, the participation rate has fallen from 66.1 percent to 62.8 percent during the same period.
In his statement, Funk said that while the unemployment rates “go down,” we as a society often “too easily forget” that people are “still hurting, still wanting to work, but on the verge of giving up.” He added:
I believe everyone who wants to work should have a job, so we must not overlook those who have been left behind and left out of the job market.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons