Looming jobless tragedy
Unemployment in the United States could be worse; from a global perspective, it could be a lot a worse. Our European neighbors would tell us that much, if they could. Between an underweight employment rate and an overworked welfare system, their part of the world has become host to a deepening social divide.
Joblessness in southern Europe broke 26 million for the first time in modern history, and with that many people struggling just to live day to day, unrest in inevitable. The eurozone may be setting the precedent for our economic collapse and social discord.
Among the litany of employment figures, the most troubling is the average number of Americans unemployed for at least 99 weeks. For the past two years, the number of long-term unemployment hovered around 2 million. As of December, that number has decreased, sitting at 1.5 million, the lowest in more than two years. It’s an improvement, sure, but by no means excellent.
In spite of its immensity, that number that doesn’t tell the entire story. Amongst the non-believers is Heidi Shierholz, who claimed in The Huffington Post that the figure is less the result of an improving labor market rather than the disappearance of its most essential demographic: the participants.
“That decline is likely not due to an improving labor market because it just hasn’t improved much over the last two years,” Shierholz said.
Jesse Rothstein, an associate professor of public policy and economics at the University of California, Berkeley, places blame on the public and “how little anybody’s paying attention — not just to the 99ers, but also the 79ers in the past year.” In the eyes of someone who studies the numbers, the only reason our long-term unemployment sits at an even 2 million is the absence of people looking for jobs, most of whom have descended into unaccountability.
It’s one thing to be unemployed, but another to be in it for the long haul. True to the preface, members of the latter don’t bounce back easily.
The amount of time spent outside the job force only hampers the prospects of getting back. A jobless future — a cartoonish prospect in 2009 — has looked less like a joke as the decade goes on. We’ve found ourselves in a reality where the question isn’t where your last job was or when you were most recently employed, but rather if you’re ever going to get another shot. The increasingly consistent answer so far is a resounding no.
Bryan Washington is an English sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].