Commentary | Economic Growth

Not “unemployed” but not working

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EPI’s latest jobs analysis shows that millions of people not counted as officially unemployed are either “involuntary part-time” workers who want to work full-time but can’t find the hours, or they are “marginally attached,” meaning that even though they want to work, they did not actively seek work in the past month.

There were 1.3 million marginally attached workers at the start of the recession in December 2007, but that number has since swelled by close to 1 million, underscoring how prolonged economic downturns can make it progressively harder to find work.

“When we see such a dramatic increase in such a short period of time, we know that it’s not caused by a major shift in attitudes toward working, but instead by the fact that many jobless workers have simply realized they have little chance of finding meaningful work in such a weak labor market,” says EPI economist Heidi Shierholz.

At the start of the recession there were 1.7 unemployed workers for every job opening; the most recent data show 5.4 unemployed workers competing for each available job.