EDITORIAL - Unseen jobless: The unemployment problem is bigger than we think

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Unemployment rose to 9.4 percent in May, up from 8.9 percent in April and the highest jobless rate in 25 years. That's 14.5 million Americans out of work, but it's not the whole story.

A clearer picture of the true impact of the recession can be gained by looking beyond those filing jobless claims to count the nearly 800,000 discouraged workers who have given up looking for a job, the 1.4 million "marginally attached workers" who stopped looking for employment because of transportation, health or child-care issues and the 9.1 million part-time workers who really want full-time jobs.

Add those people and, as The Associated Press notes, the combined unemployment and underemployment rate jumps to 16.4 percent. That's one out of every six people who want a full-time job.

Bloomberg News reports that researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco are saying a "jobless recovery" is possible. Under that scenario, which would mean no recovery for those seeking work, the economy rebounds but doesn't create jobs for millions of unemployed because employers, instead of hiring, increase the hours of their underemployed workers.

The bottom line is that while millions of Americans have suffered catastrophic loss of both their jobs and their prospects, millions more have either given up in despair or are watching their finances bleed away as they work less than full time.

President Barack Obama's declaration that the stimulus program now "is in a position to really accelerate" comes none too soon for the 13 states and the District of Columbia now coping with double-digit unemployment (Pennsylvania's rate for May was 8.2 percent).

Those federal dollars are a help, but the job of putting America back to work won't be finished until those who despair have hope, until the marginally connected are fully engaged and until the underemployed have full-time jobs worthy of their skills.


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