On October 8, 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) reported that 95,000 jobs were lost in the month of September and the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent. Though heartbreakingly high, the unemployment rate alone does not fully illustrate the true turmoil in the U.S. job market. Millions of Americans have jobs, but are struggling to get by each week because economic uncertainty has left employers hesitant to offer full-time work. Millions of others want to work, but have become discouraged and have stopped actively searching. In either case, these 12 million people are not counted when the government calculates the number of “unemployed” Americans. As a result of rampant underemployment, 41.8 million Americans now depend on the government to put food on their family’s table—more than the entire population of Spain and nearly three times the number of people who are officially unemployed. To assess the true depths of the failure of the Democrats’ economic policies, the impact ofrecord underemployment must be accounted for.
Record levels of underemployment
Underemployment on the Rise: According to BLS, the underemployment rate—accounting for the unemployed, those unable to find full-time work, and those who want to work but are discourage from looking—rose to 17.1 percent in the month of September. September marks the 17th consecutive month that underemployment was above 16 percent, which is the first time this has happened since the government began recording the statistic. When taken as a percentage of the 154.1 million people in the U.S. civilian labor force, the number of underemployed Americans equates to around 26.3 million people.
While these government figures are staggering, other measures of the employment situation suggest an even worse picture of underemployment in the U.S. According to Gallup’s employment tracking survey, underemployment in September rose to 18.8 percent and has not dropped below 18.3 percent this year. The survey also suggests that employers are fearful of further economic declines and do not anticipate that the situation will improve anytime soon. According to the report, “Gallup's monitoring of job market conditions suggests that there was a sharp increase in the unemployment rate during the last couple of weeks of September. It could be that the anticipated slowdown of the overall economy has potential employers even more cautious about hiring.”
Fewer Full-Time Jobs: The number of Americans forced to work part time because they can’t find full time work jumped by 612,000 from August to September and is currently near 9.5 million. Since June, the number of people who want full-time work but are forced to take part time jobs has increased by 943,000. Since President Obama took office 21 months ago, the number of people working part-time because of the dormant economy has increased by 1.57 million. Fewer hours means less income for these 9.5 million struggling workers who have been hard hit by the Democrats’ failed economic policies.
Discouraged Workers: Another subset of American workers who have been harmed by the Democrats’ failed economic policies, but are not counted as “unemployed,” are those who want to work but have stopped looking for jobs because they’ve been dejected by the weak economy. These people are divided into two categories by BLS. Workers classified as “marginally attached to the labor force” are those who want to work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but are not actively seeking a job any longer. The other groups, known as “discouraged workers,” are defined as persons not currently looking for work because they believe that no jobs are available.
In the last 20 months, the number of people who want work, but are not considered when the nation’s unemployment rate is calculated, has skyrocketed. There are now 2.5 million Americans who are unemployed and want to work, but are not counted in the overall unemployment rate. Since the Democrats’ $1.2 trillion stimulus was enacted in February 2009, the number of discouraged and marginally attached workers has increased by 500,000 or 25 percent. When discouraged workers are combined with those who are forced to work in part-time positions because of the weak economy, there are over2 million Americans who cannot find enough work.
The real impact underemployment
Pending tax increases, record deficits and debt, burdensome regulations, and the ever-encroaching federal government has left employers uncertain about the future and hesitant to expand not only their labor-force, but the utilization and compensation for current employees. When people can’t find sufficient work, they’re unable to earn sufficient income and provide for their families. In the past 20 months, record numbers of people in this country have been forced to depend on government assistance to provide the basic necessities for their families. Since Democrats took over Congress in January 2007, they have overseen a 59 percent increase in the number of Americans receiving food stamps. In three short years 15.5 million people have become new food stamp recipients, including 8.3 million (a 25 percent increase) in the past year alone. Today, 41.8 million Americans depend on the government for food—nearly three times the number of people who are officially unemployed.
Clearly, the Democrats’ failure to prevent job-killing tax increases or control spending has undermined the ability of the U.S. economy to rebound. As long as the threat of more taxes and bigger government looms, job creators will continue to leave capital on the sidelines and delay payroll expansion. In the meantime, it is the American people who are left to worry, struggle, and try to scrape by.