There's no debate that long-term unemployment is an economic and social crisis. But what we can or should do for these millions of workers is an open question.
More than 5 million people have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, up from 1.2 million in 2007. Today, half of the unemployed take 10 months or longer to land a job. The toll on them, their families, and society is enormous. This week's "Working it Out" question is: Should anything be done to help the long-term unemployed? If so, what would be your #1 recommendation?
Work is so core to people's identity, and the lack of money from six months' unemployment can result in losses of even basics such as health care and housing. Consider the record 3.2 million homes that have been foreclosed in the last three years. And we're not talking just about the uneducated. A Pew Trust study (p. 6, fig. 6) found that 21% of unemployed workers with a bachelor's degree have been out of work for a year, only 2 percentage points more than that of high school dropouts!
Still, it must be acknowledged that people aren't long-term unemployed at random. Yes, some people can't find work purely because of bad luck or undue prejudice. But the pool of the long-term unemployed is less skilled and intelligent, and more high-maintenance. By definition, they've priced themselves high enough that nobody will hire them. The long-term unemployed have been picked through and rejected by employer after employer.