Who are discouraged workers?

Date posted: January 24, 2011

Discouraged workers are individuals without a job who are not actively looking for work, so they are not counted in the most frequently used measure of unemployment. But N.C. State University economist Mike Walden says we do have information on why such jobless individuals are not pounding the pavement for jobs.

“The government actually collects data on this every month. The most commonly cited reason for someone not looking for a job even though they are unemployed is that they have just given up. They become discouraged, as the concept is called. They have looked for jobs in the past. They can’t find any, so they are just laying low. That actually accounts for 40 percent of the folks that we broadly call discouraged workers.

“The next most cited reason is that the folks aren’t looking for a job because they don’t have time because they are engaged in child care at home. They have to take care of their children, or they don’t have a way to get to jobs — a lack of transportation. That accounts for 33 percent of the folks that are categorized as discouraged workers.

“The third most important reason — and this is actually a good reason — is that the folks say that they don’t have a job, they want a job but they are not actively looking for work because they have gone back to school to update their skills. That’s a good thing. That accounts for about 16 percent of the folks that we call discouraged workers.

“And then the last category it’s a broad category: It says that these folks are not looking for work because they have some kind of a family responsibility that prevents them from doing so.”

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