The Unemployed Who Don't Get Counted

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The 9.5 percent unemployment rate does not count a huge number of Americans: People who are out of a job and have given up looking. With millions of people out of work and competing with each other for the small percentage of open jobs, it makes sense that a significant portion will call it quits – at least for the time being – and cease searching for employment all together.

If you're unemployed but not looking for work, tell us: At what point did you stop looking for a job?

John Ferry, a web editor from Detroit, has been unemployed since 2007 and believes his situation is hopeless.  Ferry says, "[In my line of work], you can't get a job unless you offer to do it for free."  He says he now spends his days mowing the lawns of the vacant houses on his block.  Newsweek and Slate columnist Dan Gross joins us to explain why those who have dropped out of the labor force are not factored into the country's unemployment rate and what the numbers would like like if they were included.

Guests:

John Ferry and Dan Gross

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Amanda Moore

Comments [6]

Katia

It took me (and many of my friends) forever to find jobs after college (and that was BEFORE the recession). Quit looking? None of us would've dreamed of it. I've said it before here and I'll keep saying it a million times. Whyever would we quit? (For one, what else were we going to do with our long empty days? It's not like we didn't have time to scour job ads and submit resumes.) No one who doesn't actively seek a job has one fall into their lap, and I don't know anyone who has the luxury of not working. The bills come whether you find a job or not, whether you're discouraged to the point of thinking you must be the scum of the earth if no one will even call you for an interview (been there and done that), whether you're dead tired of looking, etc. The bills will come. Therefore, you need a job (unless you have rich parents you can fall back on, or the looks to score a sugar daddy/mama). Therefore, you must look for a job. What do all these people who quit looking do to keep those bills paid, if they are not employed? I know at least my state (Michigan) requires a person to be actively seeking employment if they're on welfare, so it's unlikely these people are on public assistance. How do they make ends meet?

And how do you know when to start looking again? How do you know if you'll be desirable to employers unless you apply for the jobs they are offering? You never know when you will get a job--again, been there, done that; it seems like just another pointless application, on another pointless day, when you're sure no one will hire you because a billion employers have already thrown your resume in the circular file...until they call you. But they can't call if you haven't applied for the job.

Aug. 11 2010 10:36 PM
Jary from Northern New Jersey

As of this Labor Day 2010, if I do not find a teaching job, I will cease searching for work. My parochial school, a product of mergers that represented other closed Catholic schools, closed in 2009. Since then, nothing. I am a 54 year old widow with children, two teens nearing college ( is it worth it ? ) age and it is a moral fraud for me to encourage them to "work hard in school" when I have nothing to show for my efforts and education. I am the English teacher, and the experienced English teacher is no longer wanted. Two principals told me that if there is a choice between hiring the English teacher and the computer teacher, the computer teacher takes first priority. What can I tell my children about education and work when I have wasted my efforts in public and private schools, and no have nothing to offer anyone, let alone my family? It is so
shameful to be out of work in front of children; it is so hard to model a good example of work ethic and commitment
that they learn from home without them seeing you go to a purposeful position every morning.

I can't afford to go back to school ( despite the "help" advertised for re-training the fine print contains astronomical costs) and have no way of determining whether I would get a return on my investment, at my age. Besides, my children need their education. Why will I stop looking? Because in spite of my years of service, I have never been made to feel more like a moron than when I look for a teaching job and there are no positions in northern New Jersey and NO, I don't know "anybody". It is less demeaning for me to collect cans clean houses and sell plasma than to look for a job and now with the unemployment running out, I need more time to do thoset hings that bring small results and devote my time to the present day needs of food and taxes , rather than the imaginary "future" where I am working to help students learn what I once placed so much faith and hope in.
I seldom made more than $30,000 a year teaching but I managed the four children alone and sent the oldest to an Ivy League school and was proud of how I earned my living because I loved my work and was good at helping children learn. Now I just feel old, useless and unwanted and teaching is jonly a past dream, so I 'm stopping soon; mostly to prevent the sadness from crystallizing into bitterness.

Aug. 11 2010 10:18 AM
lizzy from East Village

I am a highly educated 43 year old designer who has had a very successful freelancing career up until end of 2008. Since then, it has been BRUTAL trying to get/keep clients, or find any work whatsoever. I am aggressive in my search and application to any and every job I find on line, but feel that every time I send out my resume to one of these digital app web sites, that it is basically like sending a ship in a bottle. WNYC should do a serious investigation following one person's resume through the system. I recently applied to a FT job that I would have been PERFECT for-- but not even an interview! And this happens almost every week. Are these jobs real? This is getting ridiculous, and I'm terrified that I'll be forced to move out of NYC and into my parents house in Georgia. Nothing more depressing than that. And if you think there are no jobs here in NYC, Georgia is not any better. Please, WNYC, investigate and give those of us who are on the brink of losing everything some information! I see hundreds of jobs listed everyday, yet why are they not hiring? Is it a sham?

Aug. 11 2010 09:26 AM
lizzy from East Village

I am a highly educated 43 year old designer who has had a very successful freelancing career up until end of 2008. Since then, it has been BRUTAL trying to get/keep clients, or find any work whatsoever. I am aggressive in my search and application to any and every job I find on line, but feel that every time I send out my resume to one of these digital app web sites, that it is basically like sending a ship in a bottle. WNYC should do a serious investigation following one person's resume through the system. I recently applied to a FT job that I would have been PERFECT for-- but not even an interview! And this happens almost every week. Are these jobs real? This is getting ridiculous, and I'm terrified that I'll be forced to move out of NYC and into my parents house in Georgia. Nothing more depressing than that. And if you think there are no jobs here in NYC, Georgia is not any better. Please, WNYC, investigate and give those of us who are on the brink of losing everything some information! I see hundreds of jobs listed everyday, yet why are they not hiring? Is it a sham?

Aug. 11 2010 09:25 AM
Fran B. Reed MPH from Hilton Head, SC

I'm part of the millions of non-counted
umemployed. We are below the tip of
the iceberg, freezing.I stopped looking for
work when I passed out in the class I
was teaching and was bedridden for
years with strokes. Now at 72 I'm fine and
would love to have a job, but there are
none. In the paper they want people who
can fix cars or coif hair. I can do neither.
I try to survive on Social Security which
only pays mortgage and $20 wk. food
stamps. We the unemployed, don't buy
shoes or clothes, we're scared every
month our lights will be cut off, and we
water-down liquid detergent to wash.
Thanks, Fran (843)684-8277 239 Beach
2113 Hilton Head, SC 29926

Aug. 11 2010 09:16 AM
Don Jones from Detroit

Thanks for the great work you guys do on this topic, but I wish you would narrow it to the percentage of older workers still unemployed. There is a palpable bias against applicants in their 50's and 60's. I was told by the Michigan unemployment counselors to hide my age on the resume. I was also told that they are hiring for truck driving and medical, but the medical industry doesn't like to hire older workers.

Aug. 11 2010 09:14 AM

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