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Archive for January 28th, 2010

Catherine Rampell (h/t Thoma) writes about the depressingly permanent effects of the current recession:

The big ocean of blue represents the portion of the unemployed who have lost their jobs, with the lighter blue section showing those whose jobs are gone permanently.

There are multiple ways to explain why permanent job-losers represent a higher share of the unemployed this time around. Maybe, as others have suggested, many of the jobs gained in the boom years were built on phantom wealth. Or maybe the culprit is a corollary of Moore’s Law, the idea of exponential advances in technology over time. That might suggest that innovation and automation displace more and more workers by the time each recession rolls around.

Whatever the underlying cause, the result is concerning: Compared to previous recessions, many more of the employment gains in this recovery will have to come from new jobs.

That is much easier said than done.

Workers whose entire occupations — not just the previous payroll positions they held — are disappearing (think: auto workers) will need to start over and find a new career path. But the new skills they will need take a long time to acquire.

That’s assuming, of course, that the job market does grow in other occupations, rather than simply stagnating. When we have to revise our NAIRU up to 7 or 8%, will we finally realize that this is no way to structure an economy?

All of which is to say that many of the Americans who are already out of work are likely to stay in that miserable state for a long, long time. And the longer they stay unemployed, the harder it will be for them to transition back into the work force, further fueling America’s growing underclass.

The administration is likely to have a big labor (and class) problem on its hands, and one that won’t be solved merely by an increase in the gross domestic product.

Depressing stuff.

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