For Immediate Release: September 01, 2011

Who's Working This Labor Day?

Why policymakers must focus on long- and short-term solutions to jobs crisis

 It's alarming enough that unemployment has hovered around 9 percent or more since April 2009, but equally troubling is that workers are remaining unemployed longer and many are dropping out of the labor force altogether. This trend threatens to turn far too many of America's once productive workers into permanently unemployed and unemployable people, the Center for Law and Social Policy said today.

A new CLASP fact sheet highlights data showing a decline in workforce participation and the difficulty many long-term unemployed face in plugging back into the labor market. Among other things, it reveals there are far more job seekers than jobs, people are out of work for longer periods of time, and a smaller percent of the population is working.

  • Five to one: The ratio of job seekers to jobs. For every five people looking for work, there is one job opening.
  • 4.5 million: The number of workers (32 percent of the 14 million unemployed workers) who have been out of work for a year or more. Another 1.7 million have been unemployed for six months to a year.
  • 30.1 percent: Percent of the nation's 26.7 million part-time workers who are doing so involuntarily because employers cut their hours were cut or they can't find full-time jobs.
  • 58 percent: The current employment -to-population ratio, or percent of the population working, which is at its lowest level since 1983.

"For the well-being of families, communities and the nation, policymakers must focus on putting Americans back to work," said Evelyn Ganzglass, director of workforce development at CLASP. "High levels of prolonged unemployment are detrimental to family well-being in the short-term, but it also risks the nation's position as a global and economic force in the long-term."

Research shows persistently high unemployment has negative long-term social and economic consequences for individuals and families. The longer people are unemployed, the harder it is to find jobs as their skills deteriorate. Parents' diminished economic resources negatively affect their children's outcomes. College graduates who enter the workforce during a recession have lower lifetime earnings than those who began working when jobs were plentiful. And older unemployed people often drop out of the workforce altogether, reducing their retirement income.

Further, high unemployment affects the nation's long-term economic well-being because, as the U.S. Department of Labor notes, the nation's productive workforce is what has contributed to the nation's high standard of living. To maintain this status, the nation must invest in getting people back to work.

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