Some have called this a jobless recovery. At a glance the data seem to tell a different story, however.
Take last Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed private-sector companies added 178,000 jobs in May, on par with the average monthly gain of the past year. Private-sector jobs have now increased for 39 straight months, with some 6.9 million jobs added over that period-including 972,000 this year.
This growth seems less impressive, though, when you consider how long it would take to return to the level of employment before the Great Recession. Estimates run from five to eight more years.
But even if it’s painfully slow, the recovery definitely is adding jobs and putting the unemployed back to work, right? The answer is: yes and no.
For new labor-force entrants and people who have been unemployed for a relatively short time, jobs are opening up. But for the long-term unemployed, the doors remain firmly shut.
As the New York Times reported Friday, the number of people who have been jobless for less than five weeks is comparable to what it was in 2007. But the number of people unemployed for more than 27 weeks is 257 percent higher.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nearly 4.4 million Americans were long-term unemployed in May. That’s better than a few years ago, when the number peaked at 6.7 million, but today it represents more than one-third of all jobless people in this country.
So if you’ve been out of work for more than six months, the recovery is truly jobless.
Recent research suggests this is so because of employers’ reluctance to hire the long-term unemployed. As Rand Ghayad and William Dickens of Northeastern University have shown, employers across industries are much more willing to hire individuals who have been out of work for shorter periods-even if they have less experience.
This bias against the long-term unemployed hurts both the people affected and the broader economy, which cannot thrive when millions of people are stuck in joblessness. This is a problem employers can-and should-fix.
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