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Unemployment nonsense

A View From the Edge

Let’s start with numbers. Currently, the government U.S. unemployment rate stands at 3.6% with a total of 6 million people in that percentage.  The number of job openings is currently 11 million.

At first glance, that means there are almost two jobs for every unemployed person. Aha, you scream, that proves people are lazy and don’t want to work! And, indeed, if you watch that one news channel, that is exactly what they are claiming on behalf of their believers. And, stupidly, no one explains the truth in these numbers.

First, the unemployment rate is calculated by the government to only include people who are out of work, seeking work and especially those who are available to start work within a few weeks. This definition does not include the people who may want to seek work but don’t want to return to underpaid, poorly supported, menial work.

However, the term “unemployment” for most people means all people who are not working; meaning they could be or should be. The popular definition doesn’t take into account people who are outside of employment either by sickness, injury, removing themselves from the employment market, students, child rearing, care for others (for example an ill parent), disability and those who have taken early retirement. In other words, the government definition of “unemployment” is much more narrow than the public’s understanding.

Next, you have to look at the number of people who have removed themselves from the employment market which is estimated to be an additional 7 million over the past year. More than half of Americans who lost their jobs in the pandemic and remain unemployed are now (Fox) “no longer interested in returning to work.” Really? You think they don’t work? How do they feed themselves and their families? Here’s how: it is estimated that 400,000 new businesses were started over the past year. And Forbes estimates that only 20% of new businesses were incorporated (for example, if you’re a gardener you don’t need to have a corporation). That means as many as 2 million new small businesses and jobs were self-created over the past year. Assuming that may mean two people per new business, you can see why the unemployment official rate is so low – simply put the 8.5% unemployment rate at the beginning of 2021 dropped as people found work (not necessarily jobs in a government definition) and dropped from the list of those seeking employment via the government. And, what’s worse for industry, many people so enjoyed being away from the control of a company during the pandemic, they have struck out on their own… leaving the industrial and the jobs’ market looking to fill 11 million jobs.

Every person who has ever worked knows that the way you are employed and paid is critical to your acceptance of that job offering. And, currently, many industries paying minimum wage have not realized that people cannot survive on such low pay—and during COVID they saw there was a better way, a more liberating way forward: get your money back from the government from all those tax dollars you paid out and find something better for your family and your self-esteem.

So, how do we help those American industries? The way America always has: paying workers more and treating them better as well as immigration. The economy cannot recover, expand and prosper out of the doldrums we find ourselves in unless we find workers for those 11 million positions currently going begging. Industrial employment standards and immigration laws both have to be updated for America to prosper once again.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.

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