The Blog

'A Labor-Market Crisis'

12:51 PM, May 29, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Michael R. Strain, writing for National Review Online:

The most pressing problem facing the United States today is not the federal budget deficit, the national debt, or excessive federal spending. It is the labor market. Yes, the United States does have a deficit problem, but we have a much more serious labor-market problem. In fact, for many workers, it’s a labor-market crisis. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget deficit is projected to remain more or less stable over the next ten years, fluctuating between 2.4 and 3.8 percent of GDP. (The 2012 deficit was 7 percent of GDP.) Of course, a deficit of 3.8 percent of GDP needs to be trimmed as the economy recovers. But it doesn’t need to be trimmed all the way to zero, and certainly not over the next ten years.

Our real and serious debt problem will be driven not by the next decade’s budgetary spending, but by projected spending on entitlements stretching beyond 2023. We must enact structural changes to our entitlement programs that will decrease future spending, but we should not — as the new House Republican budget does — make reducing the amount of federal spending set to occur in the next several years a higher priority than helping Americans get back to work.

One broad measure of unemployment, which includes workers marginally attached to the labor force and workers who want a full-time job but have to settle for part-time employment, stands at 13.9 percent — significantly higher than its pre-crisis level of a little over 8 percent. The economy has 2.6 million fewer jobs than it had when the Great Recession began. Just 64.4 percent of working-age men are working — the lowest level, by far, since the Great Depression, and a whopping five percentage points lower than at the beginning of the current downturn. Only 58.6 percent of the overall working-age population is currently employed. To find a previous figure that low, you have to go back to the early 1980s. Don’t be deceived by our recently steady (but too slow) job growth — the labor market is treading water and remains very badly damaged.

In particular, the job market for the long-term unemployed is a national crisis. A staggering 4.4 million workers have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. This downturn has set the post–World War II record for both the number of long-term unemployed and the share of total unemployed made up of long-term unemployed.

Whole thing here.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers