I will risk stating the abundantly obvious: as an attorney that sues debt collectors I meet a lot of people having problems with debt. There are commons threads between them-- medical issues, homes underwater-- but one of the strongest links is unemployment-- either a brief stint that derailed their finances or a prolonged period of it.
Any self-respecting economist will tell you that some dearth of employment is baked in our economic model. And as a society we've decided to provide certain safeties for people who fall into this inevitability-- unemployment benefits, SNAP benefits, etc. These safeties ease the pressure and anxiety that accompanies unemployment without relieving it. Gawker has been running an excellent series of dialogues with people struggling to find work in an employment market too small for everyone that I highly recommend reading for an eye-level view of the struggle. The series highlights one of the great paradoxes of unemployment-- that the longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to reenter the market.
So what percentage of able-bodied adults cannot find work? According to the BLS: 7.3%. This is the number public discourse leans on in its discussion of unemployment, and for purposes of public discourse 7.3% is low enough to evade note. Thus unemployment is rarely a topic of mainstream political or economic conversation.
But 7.3% is a very technical count. It does not include the "underemployed" (folks working part-time (often service/retail/etc.) who are actively seeking full-time work in their field of expertise), and it does not count the long-term unemployed who have fallen into the aforementioned paradox and grew so discouraged that they dropped out of the market entirely. With these people counted the number jumps to 14.3% (as of this summer), and unlike the BLS number it is not slowly receding. Why exclude them from the count? I don't want to say political expediency... so I'll just say that I don't want to say it and leave it at that.
It's oft-repeated that our long economic recovery doesn't really feel like a recovery. The fudged BLS unemployment number hides a big reason why.
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