The Common Good

Willing to Work, Where Are the Jobs?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly employment report for August this morning. In the numbers that make the headlines, 96,000 jobs were added and the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent – 12.5 million people. The numbers behind the headlines are mixed.

Across the major demographic groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.6 percent), adult women (7.3 percent), teenagers (24.6 percent), whites (7.2 percent), blacks (14.1 percent), and Hispanics (10.2 percent) showed little or no change. In the macro picture, 5 million people, 40 percent of those unemployed, are “long-term unemployed” (those jobless for 27 weeks or more.) 8 million people who are considered employed are referred to as “involuntary part-time workers,” meaning they are working part time because their hours have been cut or they are can’t find a full-time job.

 But it’s the people who aren’t even counted that give me pause. 2.6 million people are considered “marginally attached to the labor force,” meaning they want work, have looked for a job sometime in the past year, but didn’t look during August. So, they don’t count. Of these, 844,000 are “discouraged workers,” meaning they aren’t looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them. They also don’t count.

There is much this country needs and there are people available and willing to do the job. What is lacking is the will to put them to work.