The 86 Million Invisible Unemployed

invisible unemployedBy Annalyn Censky


NEW YORK -- There are far more jobless people in the United States than you might think.

While it's true that the unemployment rate is falling, that doesn't include the millions of nonworking adults who aren't even looking for a job anymore. And hiring isn't strong enough to keep up with population growth.

As a result, the labor force is now at its smallest size since the 1980s when compared to the broader working age population. "We've been getting some job growth and it's been significant, but it hasn't yet been strong enough that you start to get people re-engaging in the labor market," said Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Job Market Dropouts
A person is counted as part of the labor force if they have a job or have looked for one in the last four weeks. Only about 64% of Americans over the age of 16 currently fall into that category, according to the Labor Department. That's the lowest labor force participation rate since 1984.

It's a worrisome sign for the economy and partly explains why the unemployment rate has been falling recently. Only people looking for work are considered officially unemployed.
Jason Everett, for example, wouldn't be counted.

Out of work for nearly three years now, Everett has given up his job search altogether.
Instead, the unemployed plumber and Air Force veteran takes a few community college courses and looks after his two children while his wife is the primary breadwinner.

"I'm not even totally convinced the college degree is really going to help at this point, but I figure at least I'll be doing something," he said.


The Unofficially Unemployed
Last year there were 86 million people who didn't have a job and weren't consistently looking for one, according to Labor Department data.

Older people, ages 65 and over, account for more than a third. Young people between 16 and 24 make up another fifth. More than half don't have a college degree and more than two thirds are white.

Many of the teens and 20-somethings may be enrolled in either high school or college full-time. And many of the over 65 crowd are probably retired.

But what about the other 36 million folks who fall in between?

The truth is, the Labor Department simply doesn't know why they're not in the labor force. Many may be staying home with children or other relatives. Some may have gone back to school or retraining programs. Others could be disabled and unable to work, and some may have retired early.

"Even in the best of times, there are millions of people who don't want to work for a variety for reasons," Hall said.

But he suspects the number of "disengaged" Americans, like Everett, is higher than usual as a direct result of the recession.

About six million people claim they want a job, even though they haven't looked for one in the last four weeks. If they were to all start applying for work again, the unemployment rate would suddenly shoot up above 11%.


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390 Comments

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mscellanus

Also, they don't mention what kind of jobs people are finding. Most of these jobs are Service related, Part Time or Seasonal. There are no "real" career jobs out there anymore. Let's not forget also about how most of them don't include much incentives like Medical/Dental packages, 401Ks, etc., etc. In the end, the jobs that people are finding are mostly unrewarding and stressful jobs that just end up burning up the people hired to do them. They are high turn over jobs.

September 08 2012 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bwyou812

Can tell you I've been out of work for some time and my personal credit has takin' a hit. Now with the
technology we have the employers are now not only checking your back ground but your credit score!
Why?? Because they can. Congress should stop this and will help people find a job. Many good
unemployed with credit issues. We're applying for a job not a credit card!!!!!!

May 08 2012 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kathy.slenker

I really liked this article. The only group not widely spoken of are the 50-somethings. We are old enough to be seen as a high insurance expense but young enough to know that we are a long way from retirement. I am pretty sure there is some serious age discrimination going on.

May 07 2012 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ED

One more thing I neglected to mention in my previous post.....Nobody asked Jason about the sideline money he makes as a plumber. Most unemployed craftsman I know keep busy with sideline jobs. There is always something to do for money, if you are so inclined.

May 07 2012 at 7:32 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ED's comment
texscwboy39

probably working for un-reported tax free cash

May 07 2012 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ED

I guess the last 30 years or so have finally been realized by the "experts". This has been going on for decades, but due to the sorry economy everybody has to find an expert to listen to. This guy Jason the article uses for an example. Just how much money does he and his wife save by him being home and taking care of the kids. Also, since he doesn't work, you can take away a vehicle, and all those expenses (if you choose to). Then there are the costs of clothes for him to work. Then you have all the residual expenses you wouldn't have by not working....like coffee, lunch, breakfast at the local diner, etc. All of a sudden that $12 an hour job doesn't look so tempting. If you can save a buck, it's just like earning a buck....In my humble opinion.

May 07 2012 at 7:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hemipristis

What I find amusing is that the predominant comments on the AOL Jobs website are conservatives, while the majority on the entertainment and GOP-bashing AOL websites are libs. A pattern here...

May 07 2012 at 5:56 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to hemipristis's comment
texscwboy39

yep 1's reality,the other is fantasy land.

May 07 2012 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
texscwboy39

also keep in mind your are talking about the puffington interrnment website which for the most part all that you can get on aol,and they dont like dissenting voices over there only kool aid drinkers. facts only get in the way of their arguements. just remember,to them 20% un-employment is a good thing,they call it "economic stimulation" and so what if you lose your freedoms and rights like the ones that take gov't (plantation owners)money,they fully support it.

May 07 2012 at 9:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
hemipristis

So, ya'll are finally getting around to admitting it eh? Comes as quite the surprise to the MSM-only readers, who've been spoon-fed rainbows and unicorns under Obama's watch. How's that hope 'n' change workin' out for ya?

May 07 2012 at 5:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
lurch2112

A lot of people I know have dropped out of the job market for one reason and one reason only:Money. One of my friends told me once that he wouldn't get out of bed for anything less than 25 dollars an hour. Keep dreaming. The glory days are over. So roll up your sleves and go to work.

May 07 2012 at 4:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
yoretha

HIred 5 people last week. One called out sick on the third day. One let me know two days into their job that they couldn't work nights anymore, one just didn't show one day ("I forgot my schedule") and one of them wanders around like a street thug with his shoes untied. WHY do I have to tell an adult to tie his shoes at work??? I mean REALLY! Two of 'em have turned out good so far, but it's only been a week. Time will tell.

May 07 2012 at 4:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
BRUCIE

Obama Failed.

May 07 2012 at 3:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BRUCIE's comment
bwyou812

see you understand politics!!!

May 08 2012 at 8:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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