The Structurally Unemployed

There are 20 million people in the United States who would like a job and don’t have one or else have a part time job and would like or need more hours. These are those who are persistently without a job and are called the structurally unemployed. Their numbers has grown over the last few years. They are people who are unemployed because they have a criminal record, because they lack the skills or do not have the required education, because of where they live, in rural areas where jobs can be scarcer, because they are disabled, have a history of mental illness, or drugs. In more cases than are acknowledged, age is a factor too. And for each unemployed person, there is a story of why, a moving human story. There’s Tyler Moore, 23, in West Virginia, a coal miner, trying to get a job somewhere else since the coal industry is down, but he has an arrest record due to drugs, and can’t get hired although he finished rehab. There’s David Wolf in Florida, he’s 40 and a former Marine with 2 kids, but was once convicted of faking a social security number while on drugs. He gets many offers, and once his past comes to light the offers get rescinded. Then there are people like Leroy Moore, 48 in Berkeley. He’s on disability and half his check goes for rent. There are many jobs he could qualify for but he doesn’t get hired, jobs like working with disabled youth.
Since 2010 15.8 million jobs have been added to the economy, but still not enough to reach those who are part of these 20 million. These men and women are usually forgotten by unemployment statistics, just as they are forgotten by the employment system and by the society. Employers either won’t or can’t employ them. Current decision makers speak of creating jobs and of getting people jobs, but do not address the issues that will provide jobs for the structurally unemployed. As a society we speak of reducing inequality, yet there has been no mention of any policy, program or initiative to tackle the problems faced by these people. Given their number, it’s doubtful the structurally unemployed will be included in the job market unless we confront the very problems which make them unemployed, the structure of the society that excludes them. Politically they may not be a priority yet from a human point of view they ought to be.