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EconomicPolicyInstitute May 25, 2012

What you don’t know, can hurt you.

Unpaid internships, in many circumstances, are illegal and most people don’t know it.  The use of unpaid interns has sharply risen during the recession and its aftermath – or so we think. This week’s Economic Snapshot draws attention to the proliferation of internships and the paucity of data to track their impact.

Each year, more than one million four-year college students work as interns during the summer or during the school year, and recent surveys suggest that more than half of these interns are unpaid.

Add in interns from high schools, community colleges, university graduate programs, and even mid-career adults, and there may be as many as two million interns employed each year. The lack of information on how internships, paid or unpaid, affect the labor market—and the wages and employment prospects of young people—is problematic, and increasingly noticeable.

Weak job opportunities behind labor force’s “missing” workers

The share of working-age people who either have a job or are jobless but actively seeking work, known as the labor force participation rate, has dropped more than two percentage points since 2007. In Labor force participation: Cyclical versus structural changes since the start of the Great Recession, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz finds that roughly two-thirds of this drop is due to the weak job opportunities in the Great Recession and its aftermath, while the remainder stems from long-run demographic trends. In other words, two-thirds of the labor force participation rate’s recent decline is cyclical, and one-third is structural.

The cyclical decline in the labor force participation rate means that there are nearly four million workers “missing” from the labor force. These missing workers would be in the labor market if job prospects were strong.

Asian Americans continue to suffer most from long-term unemployment

EPI’s analysis of the latest data on Asian American unemployment, a supplement to the previously released Unfairly disadvantaged?, shows that in 2011, for the second year in a row, Asian Americans had the largest share of unemployed workers who were unemployed long term, i.e., for six months or more. In addition, highly educated Asian Americans—those with at least a bachelor’s degree—continued to have a higher overall unemployment rate than similarly educated whites. Click here to read more.

New book details how to restore the middle class and reclaim the American Dream

In the new book The Main Street Moment, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Saunders show how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which enabled corporations to inject unlimited funds into elections, has spelled trouble for workers’ rights, collective bargaining, and other foundational components of the middle class. McEntee and Saunders also demonstrate how workers can unite to restore economic justice, and they provide a roadmap to reclaim the American Dream.

McEntee and Saunders will be on hand to discuss their book at Washington’s Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.) on Thursday, May 31 from 6:30–8:00 PM.

From the EPI Blog
Ross Eisenbrey
Republicans (and two Democrats) in Congress want to derail commonsense protections for workers
Ross Eisenbrey
Workers, and honest employers, need a strong OSHA
Josh Bivens
The Fed shouldn’t accept the “new normal” without a fight
Elise Gould
When quitting is a good thing
Robert E. Scott
Despite seemingly stable U.S. trade balance, rapidly growing trade deficits in non-oil goods could lead to American job losses 
Working for people who work for a living.
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