Why are so many potential workers sitting on the sidelines in this economy?
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The headline unemployment rate we report every month from the Labor Department has been consistently low. According to economists we’re at or near what’s considered full employment.Employers have a record number of job openings, about 6 million right now, and say they can’t find workers to fill them, especially in fields like manufacturing and construction. Meanwhile, about 8.5 million people are either looking for work, or say they want to work but have given up looking. There are more working age people sitting on the sidelines, not actively looking for a job, than there were before the Great Recession. There are also more long-term unemployed, and underemployed people who have part-time jobs and want full-time ones. So what gives? In some cases, workers are mismatched to the jobs employers want to fill — there’s a growing skills gap in the labor market. People who have not had a job for months or years may have a hard time getting hired, as employers don’t tend to want to hire people who have gone through long stretches of unemployment. And employers are also offering more part-time jobs, often with unreliable or inconsistent hours, that are unappealing to workers. Finally, more than half of the men aged 25 to 54 who aren’t working or even looking for work say they’re disabled.
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