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Jobs Report: Your Long-Term Unemployment Stories

Friday, January 10, 2014

help wanted, sign, jobs, economy, employment (B.J. McCray/flickr)

Today's jobs report shows 74,000 added jobs, and a drop in the unemployment rate -- but also a persistent problem of "discouraged workers" dropping out of the workforce entirely after searching for jobs. Justin Wolfers, University of Michigan economist and currently a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, discusses the trend, and helps take your long-term unemployment stories.

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Justin Wolfers

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Comments [26]

Dan

While unemployment statistics may be obtained separately from unemployment insurance, phone surveys and computer surveys are simply not reaching far enough to come up with the real numbers. The definitions are also skewed: is the unemployed person doing handyman work, pulling together a few hundred a month, truly "mismatched" or "underemployed" as the guest noted? Let's come up with a number that represents people living at the margin who feel hopeless about getting a job in this economy.

Jan. 10 2014 12:40 PM
Dan

While unemployment statistics may be obtained separately from unemployment insurance, phone surveys and computer surveys are simply not reaching far enough to come up with the real numbers. The definitions are also skewed: is the unemployed person doing handyman work, pulling together a few hundred a month, truly "mismatched" or "underemployed" as the guest noted? Let's come up with a number that represents people living at the margin who feel hopeless about getting a job in this economy.

Jan. 10 2014 12:25 PM
ivan obregon from nyc

record-making profits on wall street, almost no jobs being created in the private and (and thanks to the republiKans) the public sector as well, and yet the unemployment figures go statistically down because.....there aren't enough jobs to be lost and claim limited compensation for and because more people say they've given up looking.

no worry. bill clinton's got a plan on how to create more minimum wage jobs and obama's trying to get through a pacific trade treaty so we can get more 99 cents stores and....things we can afford underemployed and underpaid.

Kapitalism is coming face-to-face with its own....contradictions.

Jan. 10 2014 12:09 PM
Karen from NYC

The dictation function on my iPad didn't work well, and I proofread badly. I meant that we should not take age discrimination lying down and that, as an older worker with an employer looking to make changes, I face age discrimination daily and fear losing my job. We really do need to fight back, as a generation, against discrimination.

Jan. 10 2014 12:04 PM
Karen from NYC

I understand setting age discrimination so passively.. This is something that we should be fighting. There is a whole generation of workers that is being forced out of jobs illegally, and nobody is trying to enforce the age discrimination laws. Don't you think that employers would start to worry if they were getting sued? True, the laws are not great. Nonetheless we should try to enforce them.

I am a very experienced professional who faces wage discrimination every day. . Despite my terrific credentials, if I lost my job, I would be unemployable. Ironically, my spouse, who is self-employed, is the only one along our contemporaries who can be sure that he will keep working for as long as he is able to do so. This is a ridiculous situation. Somebody has to stand up for us over 55 workers, or our health will deteriorate and we will be condemned to poverty. Savings only last for so long. We need work. I am very sad that a whole generation appears to have been abandoned.

Jan. 10 2014 12:00 PM
Jeremy from Brooklyn

I am upset that the statistics are seen as an accurate barometer for what is actually going on. I remember listening to the report before the new year that unemployment was down to a reasonable rate and that it was implied that things were "looking up". I do recall the qualifier at the end of the listing of the unemployment rate that went something like "seasonably adjusted rate". Of coarse they want report good news before the new year to put their own minds at ease and to present to the public that things are ok. All of this before Emergency Unemployment Benefits were abruptly cut off for so many.

I am really struggling right now. I am constantly looking for a job in my field as a graphic/web designer. There is so much competition in New York right now. Even for a short term freelance job (a few days) requires an interview only to hear "I am talking to another person tomorrow, just to cover all of my bases" and after following up with a thank you note, and then hearing "a freelancer we've worked with in the past has become available again, but we'll keep you in mind for future projects". There is so much competition for even the smallest of short term gigs. Too many designers and not enough jobs. It is really a market that is not friendly to older, more seasoned, experienced designers.

Also, new websites like Squarespace, Wix, and other CMS sites that are popular now put a guy like me out of business. People have the perception that they can just design sites themselves and that a trained professional with years of expertise is not even needed. In a way, they can just do it themselves.

Another factor that people do not really address is the fact that there is so much outsourcing going on. I have spoken to so many people looking for design work who have said to me, I have a guy in India or Ukraine who can do this logo for $15 (or whatever). As a designer who is trying to make a living in one of the most expensive cities in the US, I cannot compete with this and have lost work because I could not match these low quotes. It is a reality. Programmers, Designers, etc. can be found overseas who will work for next to nothing. The people who hire them have really contributed to the demise of the economy and the state of the market as well. I really think that this is a contributing factor that is not really addressed very much.

So, I am looking at any job at this point just to survive in New York. If I cannot work something out soon (barista, catering, etc or ideally, a job that I have actual skills for as a designer as a freelancer) just to cover my rent and bills, I will have to leave the city. I do not know where I will go or what I will do. I am up against the wall.

Jan. 10 2014 11:45 AM
J M

The statistics only measure people on the unemployment insurance roles. Those are people who had W2 income. And when their unemployment insurance runs out -- and it eventually does for everyone because extensions are based on when employment was terminated and do not go on forever -- they are no longer counted as unemployed. To say that "nerds in basements" know how to count the people who have fallen off the roles and are "no longer looking for work" is tantamount to saying fairies, angels or magic produce these numbers. How could you not challenge someone who posits something so absurd? The fact is, there is no way this is measured. It is just magical thinking.

The hard truth is no one stops looking for work - unless they have a spouse, parents or children to support them or another source of income.

Also 1099 work is not measured, so the millions of contractors, free-lancers, self-employed, consultant, etc. who do not have measurable W2 income and are not eligible for unemployment insurance are not counted at all!

Jan. 10 2014 11:35 AM

"I assure you these metrics are not the result of politicians conspiring with big business, but they have been parsed and defined by generations of basements of nerds…" (paraphrase)

If you believe that, I've got a crooked bridge to sell you… The guest is not seeing the forest through the trees.

While the nerds' measurements may be honest, their premise is bogus: Without a minimum wage that is a "living wage," which includes health care, the so called "unemployment rate" has zero economic meaning unless you are in the business of selling ads for General Hospital.

Do Welfare-supported Walmart/CVS/Whole Foods workers count as employed or unemployed? Do the thousands of the world's idle wealthy, spending millions, count as employed? What about our thousands of criminals, both actively committing (millions of) crimes each year or in jail?

"Under-employed" the only term that covers this grey area -- but what does it mean? For example -- does it refer to the thousands of businesses large and small that, despite the long hours, are in the process of going under?

Jan. 10 2014 11:33 AM
Anthony from Manhattan

Thank you Brian. One thing these statistic fellow never get, and I believer there are many many thousands of us, are those people who never sign up for Unemployment Insurance, or think of it.
I now have a job, with a huge reduction in pay and no benefits, part time…. however I was a manager for over 30 years and when the institution I worked for simply closed… I spent 2 years pounding the pavement for work. It never occurred to me to apply for unemployment benefits…. I thought i could find work, had savings, etc.

After two years i got very worried. It started dawing on me that my savings were dwindling rapidly and I really might not find work. I couldn't believe it. So I called just to inquire about the process IF it came to that. The Unemployment Office said, No, you can't apply…. you had to do that when you lost your job!!!!?? I'm like what?!
So what about all of us who don't run for assistance, and are months later ineligible?
I have cousins who made a bundle on wall street, republicans all, who knew the system and got unemployment after losing a position, till they got another, or used them all up. Wow, what a system.

The point is, I, and many are not in those unemployment statistics. There are many many folks hurting. Too many young folks having to turn to our military…. it's wrong, it's criminal.

Jan. 10 2014 11:25 AM
sheila from washington heights

Is it true that the BLS numbers are based on verbal surveys of 60,000 people instead of hard data like W2's, 1099's and unemployment filings?

Could Mr. Wolfers verify whether ADP payroll data counts every W2 as a job even if the social security number is the same, i.e., those people who need 2 jobs to make ends meet. This would count as 2 jobs and effectively lower the % unemployment stats.

I also thought the government drops off unemployed people from the stats if they've been unemployed for over 6 months. These are people in Bucket #2 (Wolfers description)....unemployed, still looking, but it's been over 6 months.

True?

It would really help to know how these stats are calculated to have an accurate discussion. Thanks.
sheila

Jan. 10 2014 11:19 AM
Tab from NYC

The sematics fall away if you listen to the stories of humiliation and just loneliness. Added to that the insult of being invisible to the statistics makes it tah much worse.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
Tab from NYC

The sematics fall away if you listen to the stories of humiliation and just loneliness. Added to that the insult of being invisible to the statistics makes it tah much worse.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
Tab from NYC

The sematics fall away if you listen to the stories of humiliation and just loneliness. Added to that the insult of being invisible to the statistics makes it tah much worse.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
Tab from NYC

The sematics fall away if you listen to the stories of humiliation and just loneliness. Added to that the insult of being invisible to the statistics makes it tah much worse.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
fuva from harlemworld

There are several fixes in order here:
Of course we need to do away with the failed "free market", "trickle down" theories that ignore the data, reinforce unfair dis/advantage, opportunity inequality and bullyism, AND inhibit the circulation of money in the economy.
But we also need to promote better ethics, conducive to being able to adjust to changes in the employment market with good morale. The current push-button society and increased expectation and dependency on instantaneity, etc. won't do. We need a change in ZEITGEIST.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
Tab from NYC

The sematics fall away if you listen to the stories of humiliation and just loneliness. Added to that the insult of being invisible to the statistics makes it tah much worse.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
Seth

But yet, there are so many tech' and code-writing jobs that employers can't find people to hire. Folks need to get out of the home building business and take a computer class.

Jan. 10 2014 11:17 AM
Tab from NYC

The sematics fall away if you listen to the stories of humiliation and just loneliness. Added to that the insult of being invisible to the statistics makes it tah much worse.

Jan. 10 2014 11:16 AM
James D'Addio from hastings on hudson

Brian:

Many quests have given comments on issues regarding w-9 workers or freelancers including accounts musicians photographers, dentists, you name it. Maybe a show addressing issues we encounter no unemployment.. and a raise in health care due all sole proprietors grouped with individuals in new york.. They are making it difficulty to run your own business especially if you are alone..The health care issue should be addressed.even through group plans less were offered to the groups for full coverage.

Jan. 10 2014 11:16 AM
Jade

For Justin Wolfers:
1. A neighbor who is 61 and has been employed on and off since the economy tanked, is planning on retiring at 62. In order to be able to afford that, he will also file for bankruptcy and eschew medical care. (Obamacare is of limited value.) He is healthy and could easily plan on working for another ten years.

2. A friend is planning purposefully allowing her health to deteriorate in order to get on disability. She is in her 50's. If she believed there was hope of her getting a job or "having a life worth living" (her words) she would be motivated to take care of her self, but between her medical and psychic states, that isn't going to happen.

Jan. 10 2014 11:16 AM
Ron from Manhattan

There are NO JOBS out there! And if there are jobs, employers are NOT HIRING individuals of a certain age. It's cheaper to hire younger; less healthcare expenses, and less salary outlay for their experience. This way, they can pay their CEO's a bigger bonus!

Jan. 10 2014 11:15 AM
Meg from Monmouth County, NJ

I have been a stay-at-home mother for 9 years. Now that my daughters are in school full-time, I want to go back to work. Being out of the workforce for so long, it's hard to find a job. And I'm not considered unemployed.

Jan. 10 2014 11:15 AM
Anonymous from Curiousity

Caller, what is "severely unemployed?"

Jan. 10 2014 11:14 AM
Marian from Hillsdale, NJ

I was laid off as PR Manager in February 2009. I am now 59 yrs old.....I actively searched for about 3 yrs and then gave up. Luckily my husband has been able to support our family and with tweeks to our budget we have been able to survive. I considered myself retired. Then - ta da! - something very unusual - serendipitous? - happened...I decided to stop at my local Starbucks to treat myself to a grande latte - something I haven't had since I got laid off. With latte in hand, went to my library to pick up a book - and due to a huge coincidence - my friend who worked there - told me she was leaving and I should apply for her job. I did and just started this week - part-time - but it's a job.....if I hadn't treated myself to that latte I might still be unemployed!

Jan. 10 2014 11:12 AM

I have so many friends 55-61 single women, divorced women who are struggling to find full time employment. They work so hard at getting employed, I ache for them. Then they show up for interviews, and age walks through the door, click. They can feel it instantly that they will not get the job. Rejection, rejection, rejection. How can such talented, intelligent individuals just be cut out of the economy? Well, they are. And no one is counting them or the costs to our society as they lose their ability to live here. Somebody better start COUNTING and soon!!
Women are a large part of this uncounted population. And the price to keep going is not getting lower.

Jan. 10 2014 11:10 AM
Paul from Glen Cove

The only way to keep count of the unemployment dropouts are to look at the FICA contributions (on the books jobs) of people no longer on unemployment by referencing through people's social security accounts.

Jan. 10 2014 11:02 AM

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