By Rob Mirabito, Carpenters Local 33 (personal capacity)
We’ve all heard this phrase. It implies that those without one are lazy and that jobs are there for those who are willing. 9.7% of the adult population isn’t working, and I’d be willing to bet my next unemployment check that most of them want to work.
This translates to almost 15 million people who are considered unemployed. There are nearly 9 million who are under-employed because they can’t find a full-time job. As usual, those at the bottom are hit hardest.
According to Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, the unemployment rate for households making $150,000 or more was 3.2%, while households in the lowest bracket making $12,499 per year had a rate of 30.8%.
Around one in 20 workers across the board have lost jobs in this recession; in construction, the number is one in six. Another cause for alarm is the Center’s estimate that 70% of the jobs aren’t coming back.
Youth unemployment rates have shot through the roof. 16 – 24-year-olds have lost 2.5 million jobs since late 2007. As of September 2009, only 46% of people in that age group had a job, the lowest number since the government started keeping track in 1948 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
The cost of unemployment is more than lost wages. Unemployment often deva¬states more than just your finances; there is no way to measure the effects of isolation and alienation that people feel. It’s hard not to internalize the idea that we should be able to provide for our families and ourselves. Then, if we can’t provide, we are taught that we must not be working hard enough.
Yet capitalism has never provided full employment, not even in its best years, and these are not the system’s best years. For every construction job opening in Massachusetts, there are 65 people looking for it. There simply aren’t enough jobs.
The stress related to unemployment is too much for many families to bear, in many cases leading to divorce. Depression arising from unemployment is also a serious problem; as people start to question themselves and lose their self-confidence, it becomes even harder to find a job. The lack of control over the future can cause many to turn to drugs, alcohol, or anti-social behavior.
Unions and community organizations need to start demanding a real jobs program. The latest jobs bill isn’t enough and pales in comparison to the money spent propping up the financial system. We need a major public works project, with a massive investment in our communities. Our infrastructure is crumbling; we need bridges, schools, libraries, and hospitals, and we want to work.