The issue of unemployment persistently remains one of our government’s greatest challenges. Policymakers are well aware that economic growth is largely dependent on finding gainful, sustainable employment for as many people as possible. While recent data suggests improving economic prospects—unemployment decreased from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent in April—millions of unemployed Americans are perpetually unable to find jobs.
Without discounting the positive impacts of the slight decline in unemployment, a negative fact remains problematic and undetected by conventional economic measures: serious intractable unemployment exists for a large segment of America. According to an economic news release by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate spikes to 12.3 percent when including persons marginally attached to the labor force. This subset of America consists of persons who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months.
To truly reinvigorate and maximize our economy, policymakers need to reengage and support those who are marginally attached to the labor force. The latest report by the Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine labor market data series indicates that even in this economic climate, employers are having difficulty filling job openings. For instance, there are 3 to 5 vacancies for unemployed workers in computer and medical occupations and 4 to 7 openings in construction or production occupations. This demand for workers presents an opportunity for the 9.8 million unemployed, including the 3.5 million long-term unemployed. The data suggests more work is needed to remove barriers to reemployment and to identify real solutions that align workers with jobs that are growing and in demand. Now more than ever, we need a systematic strategy that begins with inclusive data and promotes education and career paths leading to good jobs and family-supporting wages.