…..Why so many people are out of work… and don’t really want to

There are 325 million people in the United States. 95 million of them are not in the labor force. 88 million of these people don’t want a job…38 million of these say they are retired, 16 million are ill or disabled, 16 million say they are students, 18 million have simply dropped out of the work force. The number of officially unemployed people who say they’re actually looking for a job is 7.1 million. Consider:

  • There are more welfare recipients and full-time workers in the United States
  • One in seven people in the United States receive food stamps
  • One in 20 Americans receive disability
  • 12% of all prime aged men (25 years old to 54 years old) are not looking for a job
  • Between 2000 and late 2007 per capita GDP growth averaged less than 1.5% per year
  • The adult work rate in America is barely above at its lowest level in 30 years
  • For every 1 male between the ages of 25 and 54 working there are 3 that are not

And some of the most prominent reasons for this malaise:

Entitlements pay more than the job. Between unemployment insurance, disability insurance and food stamps, it’s more economical to collect entitlements than it is to find a job. One study reported that a family of four, collecting all the benefits for which they are entitled could earn his much is $65,000 per annum. There are more people participating in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the Department of Agriculture and there are fully employed in the United States.

The affordable care act has a perverse twist affecting the labor market. Means tested subsidies phase out as incomes rise. Some people will choose to stay poor or accept a lesser job and they might be capable of or get out of the workforce completely to keep insurance. Changes to the affordable care act that President Trump has recently made may, thankfully, change this.

There’s also an “attitude” of entitlement that there “ought to be a job for anyone who wants one and they are to be easy to get.” This attitude causes people to think that the job should come to them. Most people think that “looking for a job” is simply emailing resumes. Most people don’t really work very hard at getting a job.

People don’t want to take a pay cut. Salaries have still never reached levels that they were in 2007 and 2008. Most people have an idea that their earnings should increase every year. Even after long stints of unemployment these people will claim, “I really don’t want to take a step back moneywise.” Once they pass up one or two opportunities, they rarely come to their senses. Instead of taking any good salary they can get a think, “well I passed up to opportunities with less money than I was making so I should stick to my guns and wait for something better.” And something better doesn’t come along for even years.

People don’t like a company’s reputation. Many surveys find that Americans would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation even if they were unemployed. This is crazy! These same people state that they would change their mind if they receive a 50% plus increase in their previous pay. (It appears that a bad reputation is relative to the money that people are getting paid…go figure!)

I’m not sure I really know what a “bad reputation” means. Unless a firm operates in illegal or immoral business job with the company who has less than a stellar “reputation” is better than no job. And some of these reputations are interpreted from comments made on Glassdoor. It’s despicable that people would believe what might be written anonymously. I don’t have a problem with anything anybody might say about any company as long as they put their name on it. But for people to make decisions about anonymous comments is absurd.

Those in motion tend to stay in motion. Those at rest tend to stay at rest. The longer people go out of work the easier it is to stay out of work. It’s just that simple. This is one of the reasons that taking “massive action” to get a job is so important.

Most people submit resumes online and when they don’t get an answer they give up. These people don’t really know what to do to get a job. The odds of getting a job by sending a resume are 1 in 375 to 400. When you ask people what they’re doing to get a job beyond sending a resume their description is very sketchy. The key is to develop a systematic approach to finding a job. It takes a lot of work! A whole lot of work!

Even when their resume might be perfect for the job, the people who receive it, most of the time, the human resources department is understaffed and overwhelmed. There are 200 resumes submitted for every job and I venture to guess that less than half of them even get scanned let alone read.

The cost of childcare is staggering. In some states cost of childcare is the greatest expense that a family experiences, outweighing food and housing. The largest demographic hit is single mothers. The national Institute of health says that for low income single mothers with young children, child care challenges can be is significant barrier to employment.

The commute is too long. In a recent poll 75% of 584 people said they turned down a job because it was “too long of a commute.”

Maintaining their place in the benefits system is a full-time job. Government benefit programs have strict rules about those receiving benefits. Many people spend the majority of their time staying within those parameters. They know that if the rules are broken they could lose their aid. Government offices are packed every day all day long in this country. The Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, admission offices for public hospitals in most programs like this have hours upon hours of wait time. The required appointments and the filling out of paperwork, qualifying and requalifying for unemployment, Social Security insurance, disability, food assistance programs are absolutely daunting. It’s very hard to look for a job when a person is faced with these issues. There’s really not enough time in the day.

People out of work for a long period of time feel stigmatized. If a candidate has been out of work for six months or more, they feel marginalized. The truth is, they are. Employers will often pass any candidate up who has been out of work for a long period of time. There are just too many other candidates to choose from. A candidate out of work that long appears to be a risk. And that is just one less risk they might have to deal with in considering another candidate who appears to be either employed or recently unemployed.


There are very few simple answers to all of the reasons that so many people are out of work. Repealing or even streamlining entitlements would be a great start. Teaching people all of the activities that it takes to find a job would be another step in the right direction. Holding people accountable for taking massive action with those activities would be another valuable tool. Many of these solutions will be difficult and take a long time to institute.

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