By Howard Rich
Earlier this month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported
that America’s unemployment rate fell from 8.5 percent in December to
8.3 percent in January — its fifth consecutive monthly decline. The
agency also estimated that the U.S. economy created nearly a quarter of a
million new jobs last month — its highest output since last April.
According to the White House, this data provided “further evidence
that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn
since the Great Depression.”
Is this really the case, though? Scratch the surface of the “good
news” touted by these official statistics and you’ll find several
troubling indicators — including sharp increases in the number of
long-term unemployed and a labor force that’s shrinking to historic new
No wonder most Americans aren’t experiencing the economic “healing” that the White House claims is occurring all around them.
According to the BLS, 43 percent of America’s 12.8 million unemployed
workers have been out of a job for more than six months.
Two-and-a-half years ago that figure was below 30 percent. Moreover the
average unemployment duration now stands at 40 weeks — up
precipitously from a then-record high of 25 weeks two-and-a-half years
And with the federal government continuing to fund long-term
unemployment benefits in perpetuity, taxpayers are simultaneously
subsidizing and incentivizing this sustained joblessness.
“This crisis of long-term joblessness is unprecedented in the
post-war period,” The Economist noted last October, adding that “for the
first time in decades, jobless workers are more likely to drop out of
the (labor) force … than to get a job.”
This grim outlook isn’t likely to improve anytime soon, particularly
given the scant availability of construction work associated with
America’s still-reeling housing market.
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