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Herding Cats


How can American companies have nine million job openings, when nine million workers need a job?  My Republican friends tell me that Americans are just lazy and won’t work when unemployment payments are generous.  Certainly, there are lazy workers who milk the system, but how many?  A recent survey suggests 26% of workers would return to work if unemployment benefits were eliminated.  Certainly, 26% of nine million people is a large number, but 74% is a much larger number.

My visual image of the unemployed is NOT of 400-pound fat guys laying on a couch eating donuts while watching mindless gameshows.  I see the unemployed as a herd of cats going 360 directions.  As unemployment spiked last year, many young workers returned home to live with their parents, and many returned to college.  Among older workers, a surprising number decided to simply retire.  Most surprising to me, many were terrified enough of Covid to stay home or even move from large cities to safer rural areas.

Economists point out there is cyclical unemployment, which increases when the overall economy weakens.  There is also structural unemployment, such as a geographical mismatch between the job location and the worker location.  Another mismatch is between skills available and skills needed.  (Our economy is digitizing rapidly.)  A relatively new type of structural unemployment is the workers demand for more remote work, which facilitates work-life balance.

My Democratic friends may have bleeding hearts for 100% of the unemployed, but I hope my Republican friends might shed a tear for 74% of the unemployed.

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