15 December 2010

What You Need to Know About Unemployment

If you are unemployed, you may think you know all there is to know about unemployment. You know it has changed your whole family structure and security. You know what it has done to your sense of self-worth. You know the worry of where the next meal is coming from, and can you keep a roof over your family's head. You know the personal, gut-wrenching facts, but that is not all there is to know.

There is a definition of unemployed, believe it or not. It is defined as a person who does not have a job and has been looking unsuccessfully for over four weeks. There is another, less personal definition. It is expressed in percentages, and it is derived by dividing the number of job seekers by the number of workers in the job force. This percentage right now is 9.3%, the highest in over a decade.

What causes unemployment, you may ask. There are a number of theories, one being that regulations imposed on businesses cause a decrease in the number of people hired. Some of the regulations that are suspect are minimum wage regulations, union activities, taxes, benefits required to be offered to employees, and any other mandatory requirements that might increase business operating expenses, thus cutting into profits.

Some economists describe a cyclic nature to unemployment, stating that such rates will rise and fall over time. That is little consolation to you if you are one of the unemployed. In addition, the rates seem to be pretty constant over a long period of time. Not much indication of a cycle predicted.

Poor training and education in job skills are another factor for those not being able to find jobs, as is their discouragement over the outlook for work. Poverty, partly due to unemployment, is also a factor making job hunting difficult, as there aren't funds to use for the task. Mechanization decreases the number o f jobs. A person's concept of how much they are worth in the job market may cause them to bypass lower- paying jobs in search of a higher-paying one.

Can we do anything to help those seeking jobs be successful? It has been suggested that interventions for businesses to encourage them to hire is a solution. Some programs might be stimulus packages, tax breaks, and programs to reward a company for expanding their business and creating jobs. For the job hunter, assistance in training for job skills will help those hardest hit by unemployment.

Some have suggested lowering minimum wage, creating new jobs, mandating earlier retirement, job-sharing, and controlling the rate of migration would all help put more people to work. The impact of these solutions on the unemployment rate has not been adequately verified. As a consequence, not many economists or individuals have accepted them.

There are consequences to unemployment beyond just the economic hardship. These include an associated higher crime rate. There are more homicides and suicides associated with those not having work. Child abuse and alcoholism escalate. The youth are even harder hit. They cannot gain on-the-job skills and training, so their future is negatively impacted. They are often seen as not being employable since they have never worked and have been unable to find work.

Family structure changes as a result of unemployment. Fathers may become the caretakers and mothers the breadwinners. The children see a change in not only the relationship between their parents, but in their relationship with each family member as well. The frustrations with being unemployed may cause added discord in the family. Even though unemployed parents have more time to spend with children, often frustration and stress make that time unproductive.

We can put a number on economic costs, such as the decrease in the Gross Domestic Product, which is an economic health indicator. No one has been able, however, to quantify the social costs to the individual and families. Additionally, there are increased costs associated with the increased need for welfare programs, food stamps, Medicaid, and other economic programs to help those who have no job. The cost of unemployment is not just an individual thing, it is a universal one.

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