The Economic Recovery Still A Mirage For American Workers

The Heldrich Center's new report suggests there's never been a jobs recovery.

Throughout the 2012 election and into the economic confrontations of 2013, President Barack Obama has frequently referred to the country as being in a "recovery." But a new report released by the Heldrich Center for Workplace Development tells a different story, and challenges the idea that there's yet been any recovery for American workers.

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Based out of Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Heldrich Center polled 1,090 Americans in January about their employment status, then compared the answers to a previous study it conducted in August 2010, when the recovery was supposed to have begun. And it found, at least for these survey participants, the labor market to be stagnant. Sixty percent of study participants said that they were employed in 2010, compared to 58 percent in January 2013. Similarly, the percentage of respondents who identified themselves as unemployed and looking for work was 6 percent in 2010 and 8 percent in 2013.


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The findings fly in the face of the official job numbers for the nation as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In August 2010, the official unemployment rate stood at 9.5 percent, and this past January, the rate stood at 7.9 percent.

How could the study show a stagnant market while the official numbers show improvement? The inconsistency could be explained by more than just the survey's small sample sizes, the study's authors note. "There are just record numbers of people who have dropped out of the labor market, and who have exhausted unemployment insurance after giving up their search," said Carl Van Horn, the director of the Heldrich Center and a co-author of the report, in an interview with AOL Jobs. "These are people who are only living on food stamps, disability benefits -- or Social Security if they're old enough."

As analysts such as Van Horn have noted, the number of Americans who have given up looking for work and are not technically considered "unemployed," has risen over the past few years. The proportion of working-age Americans who are actually employed, also known as the labor force participation rate, has stood at 63.6 percent for four of the past five months, which represents the lowest figure since 1981, reports The Huffington Post.

The Heldrich report ("Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era") also indicates that the economic downturn has left few untouched. Its 2013 sample shows only 1 in 5 of its survey participants as either not having been laid off or not knowing someone close to them who has. And for those who have lost a job, but have been able to reenter the workforce, about half are in jobs that pay less than a previous one. (See the chart below.)

What do you think? Has there been a recovery for the American workers you know? Share your comments below.

Heldrich Center economic recovery chart



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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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37 Comments

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rickpowell

Be nice to President Obama. He has another 4 years to put you on his hit list and target a drone to take you out. No one seems to care. He let an ambassador and 3 marines die through inaction. He is hell bent on making sure you have no undocumented firearms while playing favorites with 14 million illegal (oops, I mean undocumented) outsiders to gain their votes for his party. Be nice to him and he will be Santa Claus to you - free phones, food stamps, sit down rest your feet and have a microbrew. What a regular Joe he is, be nice to him, or else.

February 11 2013 at 11:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
paddleman1928

Anyone who hasn't realized that they are being lied to on a daily basis voted for Obama

February 11 2013 at 8:51 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
oldjd325

The upside to the comments is that with the exception of someone who obviously has a government job, everyone here understands that there is no recovery. There are no jobs and the ruling class is hoarding all the money they can for themselves. My question is why didn't people vote this way back in November? Now we have four more years of this. If you voted for any incumbents in the last election, shame on you!

I had to reinvent myself 3 years ago and now I make a very nice living teaching people how to give their underwater houses back to the bank and keep the money for themselves.

February 11 2013 at 8:20 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
chnvlly

What recovery? Yeah, the very rich are doing great. That's the politicians (all of them wealthy), the bankers
( wealthy) oil companies (fillthy rich with inflated prices) and the CEO's of every kind of company you can think of(very wealthy). Real people, those who didn't indulge in the house-flipping frenzy, who played by all the rules, are still paying the price for those who caused all this. And those who caused this mess are flying high. I fear that this country is doomed because those in power are insatiably greedy.

February 11 2013 at 7:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
geoffandmarie418

Truth is AMERICA is nothing more than a big joke anymore. The American GOVERNMENT or Big Corporations doesn't deserve respect anymore. True desecration of the America flag is when so many good folks are either out of work, or working for wages that aren't a living wage, millions of homes being foreclosed on, millions of people losing their life saving thru Wall Street, etc....
I guess iI'm un American for saying all this. I better be quite or the government might order a drone strike on me.

February 11 2013 at 7:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
toddisit

Too many "poop bag" jobs out there, no career paths for most people, temporary, part time, low wage. That isn't recovery folks.

February 11 2013 at 6:35 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Homerite Const.

There is no recovery. The inflation rate is being understated and the economic growth rate has to be adjusted for inflation so if they say that inflation is 2% and it is really 6% then you would have to subtract an additional 4% from the stated growth rate of the economy. Since we've been told that the economy is growing at about 2% over the last few years and we need to subtract about 4% from that number(the difference between the stated inflation rate and the real inflation rate) we come to -2% of actual growth in the economy over the last few years. That shrinkage of real economic activity could explain the lowest workforce participation since the early 80's. Why did the author omit such an obvious possible explanation for why fewer people are working and many of the of the reemployed are getting paid less.

February 11 2013 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
SeaboardStation

Why isn't this front page, top of the hour news. You weak minded folks that think the Washington Elite are fixing everything, should take your blinders off. The American family is diving deaper into poverty and your elected officials keep changing the focuse to throw you off. Its not one party thats to blame, its all in Washington lie'n to us everyday. If you are suffering from this bad economy. Let your elected officials know, and keep letting them know.

February 11 2013 at 6:10 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
chris

its not a mirage its been all smoke & mirrors for the last 4 years
if the media was doing their job instead of acting like obamas pr firm everyone would see this

February 11 2013 at 3:14 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
susieq

I lost my factory job three years ago. Had a temp one, didn't last and now no one wants to hire me b/c I've been unemployed with "no reason" for too long. I am too old to do the lean manufacturing "on your feet all day" job with disabilities incurred during my lifetime. I have a disabled son and an elderly mother who live with me and am quickly getting depressed. Obama-care is coming and I get the feeling I will get screwed more with that. My Dr. can't give me charity care b/c Obama-care says he must give his care for free to everyone or have me fill out volumes of financial questions, then they--the gov't agencies overseeing these Dr.s, will make the judgement about if I can pay or not. I just want the president and congress to live with my empty bank account, my empty pantry and feel my stress instead of fixing problems that will only encourage certain groups of people to vote them in. DO SOMETHING SMART AND CARING for the American's that need it, don't worry if you'll get the votes, just do the right thing!!!

February 11 2013 at 2:55 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to susieq's comment
SeaboardStation

My prayers are with you, and every family that has been forgotten by our elected officials .

February 11 2013 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dollover

Susieq, my husband has been without a full time job for over 31/2 years so I hear you. Our government just doesn't care about us. I'm the only one working, I have my elderly mother living with us and in our state they raised the income tax to 67% and now they have reinstated the social security tax. I work over time when ever I can, but my check only goes so far. I just dont know what is going to happen.

February 11 2013 at 7:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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