In past recessions, it has been an article of faith that as the economy revives, the work will return. But after the profound recession that began in December 2007, jobs in some industries aren't coming back.
This creates what economists call "structural unemployment," the result of a mismatch between the skills of the workforce and those needed by employers. It is feared because it causes longer unemployment spells as workers struggle to transition from one trade to another.
Economists and other know-it-alls often tell the long term unemployed folks that they need to move, to go where jobs are. Anyone who has ever relocated knows it isn't that easy; it's expensive, and it may be impossible for families to sell their homes in this market.
Moreover, the carpenters are reluctant to abandon their trade to start as a rookie in another field. Union carpenters in Nevada train as apprentices for four years. Many have had fathers or uncles in the trade. And several said they simply like to build massive projects - bridges, memorials, high-rises - and watch them "come out of the ground."
Some of these guys are getting on toward middle age, which means they're at risk for staying unemployed.
This is the part that isn't mentioned often enough:
Exactly how much of the unemployment is "structural" is a matter of debate among economists. But it evokes deep concern because it is resistant to stimulus efforts and other quick policy measures.
Already, long-term unemployment has become one of the defining aspects of the recession. The incidence of people who have been unemployed for more than six months is much higher than it has been in 60 years.
The long-term unemployed are seldom mentioned in the media, or in policy discussions. We need a better lobbyist.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org