Tags: American | workers | jobless | econonomy

Washington Post: Job Recovery Weakest for Those in Prime of Working Life

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 11:27 AM

The jobs market for those in the prime of their professional lives is the worst it has been in more than 23 years, The Washington Post reports, citing federal data.

The percentage of workers between the ages of 25 and 54 who have jobs stands at 75.7 percent, a percentage point higher than during the depths of the downturn, the newspaper finds, adding the figure falls well short of pre-recession levels of around 80 percent.

Unemployment rates typically grab headlines, but they often overlook the true nature of the jobs market in that they don't count those people who are out of work and have given up their job searches.

Editor's Note: Startling Proof of the End of America’s Middle Class. Details in the Video

Only jobless workers who are actively seeking employment are counted as part of the labor force, which sends the headline percentage rate lower.

A study of those in the prime of their working lives but remain jobless reveals the true damage a weak labor market can inflict on the economy — many Americans who would otherwise be producing for society and saving for retirement are stuck on the sidelines.

"What it shows is that we are still near the bottom of a very big hole that opened in the recession," Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, told the Post.

The percentage of prime-age men who are working is the worst since 1948, according to federal data, while the proportion of prime-age women hasn't been this bad since 1988.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that the economy and jobs together represent the "single most important issue" for more than half Americans, though the outlook for both remains bleak.

About 83 percent see the economy as "poor" or "not so good," far gloomier than the sunnier figures in pre-recession years.

The official unemployment rate dipped to 8.1 percent in April, lower than 8.3 percent earlier this year and much lower than 9.0 percent a year earlier, though mainly due to the number of people dropping out of the labor force and not due to any significant increase in hiring.

Weekly initial jobless claims have been falling lately, though economists warn that trend doesn't reflect a surge in hiring either but rather, just a slowdown in layoffs.

"The inflow of new claims for unemployment insurance provide encouraging indications that the job cuts side of the job growth equation has slowed," says Nomura economist Jeffrey Greenberg, according to the AFP newswire.

"That said, the hiring side remains lackluster."

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has said if elected, he'd bring the unemployment rate down to around 6 percent.

"I can't possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate will be at the end of one year," Romney said recently, according to the AFP newswire.

"I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to six percent or perhaps a little lower," Romney added.

"It depends in part upon the rate of growth of the globe, as well as what we're seeing here in the United States."

Some experts worry that too many people have been out of work for too long and have become unemployable in that their skills have become outdated.

Such workers are technically known as the structurally unemployed.

Officials at the Federal Reserve, whose dual mandate calls for creating optimal employment rates on top of price stability, say policy tools such as monetary stimulus measures won't do much good for the structurally unemployed.

"Some commentators are urging the Fed to take additional action as long as the unemployment rate remains elevated," Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker said recently, according to Bloomberg.

"But if elevated unemployment reflects largely fundamental factors rather than insufficient spending, such stimulus might have little impact on unemployment and instead just raise the risk of pushing inflation up."

Editor's Note: Startling Proof of the End of America’s Middle Class. Details in the Video


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