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Thursday, March 10, 2005


The retrain has left the station

I've been writing for more than a year about the folly of thinking that "retraining" is the answer to joblessness in America. The "really" high-end jobs (the example I used before was Ph.D. microbiologists) are few and far between, and hardly the type of job that someone is going to be "retrained" to do. Other technology jobs are, if anything, easier to outsource than lesser-paid jobs (tech support can be outsourced; WalMart shelf stocker or fast food worker can't be).

Today, the Los Angeles Times provides some data to back up those assertions:

"Long-term unemployment, defined as joblessness for six months or more, is at record rates. But there's an additional twist: An unusually large share of those chronically out of work are...college graduates.

"Even with better-than-expected job growth, 373,000 people with college degrees quit job hunting and dropped out of the labor force last month, the Labor Department reported Friday.

"Long-term unemployment among college graduates has nearly tripled since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, statistics show. Nearly 1 in 5 of the long-term jobless are college grads. If a degree holder loses a job, that worker is now more likely than a high school dropout to be chronically unemployed."
And just to underscore that last paragraph, which is something I've also been pointing to for a long time (because it reflects the situation of quite a few people I know personally) as the significant factor in unemployment in America, these facts:
"Since the 2001 recession, about one-fifth of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months -- and that proportion has steadily crept up even as the unemployment rate has fallen. The percentage of jobless who are chronically unemployed is even higher in California -- 23.3% last month, versus 20.5% nationwide.

"Even with the national unemployment rate at a relatively low 5.4%, the share of those out of work for more than six months is higher now than during the early 1980s, when the jobless rate was in the double digits, analysts say. The average length of unemployment is also higher now than at any time other than the early 1980s."

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