How Do You Fill a Shortfall of 11 Million Jobs?

Nov 04, 2010

By Crystal Canales

To make a dent in the stubborn 9.6 percent unemployment rate, the nation needs innovative jobs creation strategies.  This was the central topic last week during a panel discussion, Revising Policy Assumptions in the Wake of the Great Recession: Implications for the Social Contract , hosted by the New America Foundation. 

Currently, there's a shortfall of more than 11 million jobs needed to bring unemployment down to pre-recession levels, according to research from the Economic Poilcy Institute (EPI).  For every job opening, 4.6 people are looking for work.  What's more, virtually every sector lost jobs during the economic downturn.

Heidi Shierholz, EPI economist, noted that strategies to improve skills training and educational attainment rates are important and will help many find work when the economy improves, but she added education and training alone will not solve the unemployment crisis. Workers can't find jobs because they simply aren't there, she said. Instead, policies must support "full-throttle demand strategies" through an increase in public spending.

James Galbraith, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, weighed in with a proposed change to make early retirement attractive to older workers. By lowering the full benefits retirement age from 65 to 62, the number of job openings available to the unemployed would increase substantially, he said.

Because there is no "quick-fix" that will create the 11 million jobs the nation needs for full employment, policymakers have to think creatively about new strategies to put people back to work.

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