The unemployment situation is not as bad as some people are making it out to be. The Republicans are selling doom and gloom because they’re trying to win an election. But if you dig into the numbers you’ll find some very interesting facts that have nothing to do with a good or bad economy. First let’s set the record straight. Right now the employment rate is 7.8% and there are about 12.1 million people unemployed. The Republicans and other Obama haters in the financial world always try to jack up the numbers by piling on a lot extra stuff. They keep saying its 23 million people unemployed but the actual numbers are 7.8% and about 12.1 million people.
So that means our employment rate is about 92%. I don’t know about you but everytime I ever scored a 92 I was happy. The last time I checked that was an A. In a so-called good economy the unemployment rate is usually around 4%. So our unemployment rate is really only about 4% higher than normal. That’s sounds pretty good to me. Especially when you compare it to what’s going on in Europe. They’re looking at 12-15% unemployment and countries like Greece and Spain are both over 20%. If you gave any European country our unemployment rate not only would they be happy, they would probably declare complete economic recovery.
I don’t know if many people know it, but about 3.5 million private sector jobs are posted every month. Unfortunately most applicants don’t have the necessary skills to fill the positions so those jobs continue to go unfilled every month. Who’s to blame for that? If we could fill those 3.5 million jobs, unemployment would drop to about 6% overnight and we wouldn’t be talking about unemployment.
But why is it so hard to fill those 3.5 million jobs that are available every month? Training is one issue but it has to be more than that. I started thinking about it and trying to figure out some of the reasons why it may be difficult for some people to find a job in any economy.
1. How many people have a criminal record? I know this is a touchy subject but it is what it is. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country on the planet. According to the Dept of Justice over 60 million people in the US have a criminal record. That’s about 1 in 5 or about 20% of the population. Over 7 million people were on parole in 2009. I don’t think it anyone would be shocked to find out that people with criminal records face discrimination when trying to get a job. We’re all familiar with the three strikes and you’re out rule in the criminal world but in the job world its one strike and you’re out. A lot of the offenses are minor drug possession charges but it’s still a huge scar on your record and will make it tougher to get a job. Our war on drugs and zero-tolerance policies are a double edged sword because when those folks get out of jail they go straight to the unemployment line and they can’t get a job.
You have to be bonded for a lot of jobs now days. So if you get a conviction for anything dealing with stealing you can forget it. No one is going to trust you around money or property. Get in trouble with drugs and people think you’re going to come to work high. Get convicted for assault and they think you’re going to come to work and beat somebody up. Businesses just don’t want the liability that comes with hiring people with criminal records. Because if the person gets in trouble again everyone is going to ask how did they get hired and why? So if nationwide 20% of the population have a criminal record it would be safe to assume that 20% of 12.5 million people that are unemployed have a criminal record. That equals about 2.5 million people and you can set them aside because they would have a tough time getting a job in any economy.
2. How many people do not have a high school diploma? You used to be able to get by and get a service job or some type of day labor position without a high school diploma but not anymore. Now days without a high school diploma you’re basically unemployable.
3. How many people do not have a college education? If you want a decent job at a decent entry level you have to some college. If you’re one of those folks walking around with no college education you’re probably spinning your wheels. It can also be hard to get a promotion at your current job without a college degree.
4. How many people have substance abuse problems? Alcohol and drug dependency is a big problem for a lot of people. It’s hard to get or keep a job because they keep relapsing and if they have a conviction for a drug related charge see paragraph 1.
5. How many people have mental issues (depression, compulsive disorders etc.). This one hits more people than you think because a lot of people are walking around who have either been misdiagnosed or have never been treated.
6. Bad credit. Unfortunately the credit rating agencies have found a way to ruin our lives beyond just trying to get a loan. Some employers will deny you the job because of bad credit.
7. Suspended driving licenses. If you can’t get to work you can’t get the job.
8. Dishonorable discharges from the military. This one hurts a lot of people and will follow them for life.
9. No skills or experience at doing any specific task. There is a chronic shortage of skilled workers. You’ve got to bring something to the table.
10. If you’ve ever sued an ex-employer. A lot of employers will check the public record and if you’ve ever sued a former employer, you can forget getting hired.
11. If you change jobs too often. This is a sign that you’re unstable and unreliable. They also may suspect a substance abuse problem.
12. Too much time has passed since you had a job or you have a big gap in employment. This is a red flag for someone that may have been in prison.
Those issues and others have a huge impact on employment and none of them have anything to do with a good or bad economy. If we set all those folks aside and factored in the 3.5 million jobs that are not being filled, I wonder what the unemployment rate would be?