We don't just have an unemployment crisis. We have a livelihood crisis too.
As Washington begins to take on unemployment it needs to realize that the larger economic problem is that the demand for labor is too low. This lack of demand is not manifest in unemployment alone, but also in fewer hours worked, stagnant or falling wages, and the lack of job mobility. These are important economic problems, but they're also psychological troubles because work is a defining aspect of life.
When we hear that the unemployment rate is 9.8 percent and destined for 10 percent it can be hard to know just how bad this is. After all, a pop quiz would reveal few people accurately know how many Americas work. So picture it this way: 9.8 percent is more than 15 million people. In other words, as many people in America are unemployed as live in Illinois -- if Illinois added another Chicago to its population. The average worker of the 15 million has been out of a job for six months, and 5.4 million of them have been looking even longer.
About 9.2 million people are underemployed. They're working part time in lieu of a full-time job or because their full-time hours were cut back. This is greater than the population of New Jersey.