Horrific! 86 million 'Invisibly unemployed' in U.S. have given up on finding work altogether
As only those looking for work are tallied, 86 million who have given up aren't counted
The downside to the drop in unemployment, analysts say, is that many
people in the U.S. have stopped looking for work altogether. In order to
factor into statistics, a person is only considered employed if they
have a job or have looked for one in the last four weeks. Only about 64
percent of Americans over the age of 16 currently fall into that
category, according to the Labor Department, the lowest labor force
participation since 1984.
Accounting for the "invisibly unemployed" is the fact that 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 usually retired.
The U.S. 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," Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.
Of those who have given up looking for work, 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.
Accounting for this is the fact that 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 usually retired.
As for the other 36 million folks who fall in between, the Labor Department simply doesn't know. Many may be staying home with children or other relatives. Some may have gone back to school or retraining programs, while 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 says. He suspects that for the majority of "disengaged" Americans 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 percent.
"At this point, the labor market is worse than people realize because people are discouraged. Certainly, a large number of workers have given up on the job market," Hall said.
The decline in labor force participation is not a new problem. After peaking at 67.3 percent in early 2000, the rate has been falling ever since. Researchers attribute a large part of the decline to the recent recession and lackluster recovery, but the other half to long-term demographic trends.
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