The Scariest Unemployment Graph I've Seen Yet

median longterm unemployment.png
The median duration of unemployment is higher today than any time in the last 50 years. That's an understatement. It is more than twice as high today than any time in the last 50 years.

OK, you're saying, but what does this mean? Does it mean we must increase the duration of unemployment benefits to protect this new class of unemployed, or does it mean we need to stop subsidizing joblessness? Does it mean we need to expand federal retraining programs, or does it mean federal retraining programs aren't working? Does it mean we need more stimulus, more state aid, more infrastructure projects, more public works ... or does it mean it's time to stop everything, stand back and let business be business?

You're going to find smart people make a case for all six of the above public policy directions. (I tend to side with the first of each coupling.) It's hard to know for sure how to design public policy for historically unique crises precisely because they are historical orphans, without precedent to show us the right way from the wrong.

One of my first reactions to this graph was: Surely this is why we don't have to worry about inflation for a very, very long time. However, here's evidence that despite the historically inverse relationship between inflation and joblessness, "the long-term unemployed put less downward pressure on inflation." Ultimately, this is a graph that should humble policy makers more than it should scare them into confidently arguing they know exactly how to fix it.
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In