Tags: Unemployed | Criminals | Jobs | Labor Market

Unemployed Criminals Distorting Jobs Numbers

Unemployed Criminals Distorting Jobs Numbers
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By Wednesday, 06 April 2016 07:18 AM Current | Bio | Archive


If the March jobs report is right, about 8 million Americans are unemployed in our supposedly recovering economy. Worse, some 2.2 million of them are “long-term unemployed,” meaning they have been out of work 27 weeks or more.

These aren’t the labor force dropouts or “discouraged workers” you hear about. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts a person as “unemployed” only if he or she is actively looking for a job. Why is it so hard for these millions of willing workers to find work?

That question has many answers, but I think I know at least one of them.

Some people can’t find jobs because they have a criminal record. Employer background checks are now so routine that any skeleton in the closet will show itself quickly.

How many people are we talking about?

Surprisingly, the numbers are hard to find. We know that about 600,000 convicts leave prisons each year. Some go right back to jail, but many want to rejoin society.

Others have felony convictions, but never go to prison because they received probation or paid fines.

A study cited by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute estimates that around 20 million convicted felons are out of prison (if they ever went) and living among us.

That’s a staggering number, almost equal to the population of Texas. Nationwide, roughly one out of every twelve adults is a felon.

Official data is scarce but we can assume most are male and racial minorities. Another good bet: no matter how sincerely they want to reform, convicted felons have a hard time finding jobs. They probably lack education and may have substance abuse problems.

Are employers being unfair? Not necessarily. If you run a cleaning service, for example, your customers don’t want convicted burglars in their homes and offices. No one thinks sexual predators should work in day care centers.

In the course of this, however, we are throwing some babies out with the bathwater. Folks who learned their lesson are still getting punished long after serving their time.

I don’t have an answer to this. The same data also suggests most of the 20 million felons somehow found employment. Yet the millions who can’t are distorting our labor statistics.

The current 5% unemployment rate may be closer to “full employment” than we think.

This affects Federal Reserve policy and other important decisions.

If we are going to have this class of people who want to work but aren’t allowed to, we at least should collect better data on them.

Maybe the Labor Department should track a new category: criminally unemployable.

Patrick Watson is an Austin-based financial writer. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickW

To read more of his insights, CLICK HERE NOW.

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If the March jobs report is right, about 8 million Americans are unemployed in our supposedly recovering economy. Worse, some 2.2 million of them are "long-term unemployed," meaning they have been out of work 27 weeks or more.
Unemployed, Criminals, Jobs, Labor Market
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2016-18-06
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 07:18 AM
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