Thursday, April 18, 2013

the terrifying reality of long-term unemployment...,

theatlantic | Close your eyes and picture the scariest thing you can think of. Maybe it's a giant spider or a giant Stay Puft marshmallow man or something that's not even giant at all. Well, whatever it is, I guarantee it's not nearly as scary as the real scariest thing in the world. That's long-term unemployment.

There are two labor markets nowadays. There's the market for people who have been out of work for less than six months, and the market for people who have been out of work longer. The former is working pretty normally, and the latter is horribly dysfunctional. That was the conclusion of recent research I highlighted a few months ago by Rand Ghayad, a visiting scholar at the Boston Fed and a PhD candidate in economics at Northeastern University, and William Dickens, a professor of economics at Northeastern University, that looked at Beveridge curves for different ages, industries, and education levels to see who the recovery is leaving behind.

Okay, so what is a Beveridge curve? Well, it just shows the relationship between job openings and unemployment. There should be a pretty stable relationship between the two, assuming the labor market isn't broken. The more openings there are, the less unemployment there should be. If that isn't true, if the Beveridge curve "shifts up" as more openings don't translate into less unemployment, then it might be a sign of "structural" unemployment. That is, the unemployed just might not have the right skills. Now, what Ghayad and Dickens found is that the Beveridge curves look normal across all ages, industries, and education levels, as long as you haven't been out of work for more than six months. But the curves shift up for everybody if you've been unemployed longer than six months. In other words, it doesn't matter whether you're young or old, a blue-collar or white-collar worker, or a high school or college grad; all that matters is how long you've been out of work.


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