, Port Arthur, Texas


September 12, 2012

Unemployment and those not seeking jobs

PORT ARTHUR — I never heard about people who are no longer seeking jobs being associated with unemployment rates until Obama was given the responsibility to clean up the economic mess left by the unfunded economic and military policies of the previous administration.  Now, however, every time the unemployment rates goes down, Republicans — and even others — act as if that is a bad thing because, as they claim, the decrease happens because more people have stopped looking for jobs.  

Some analysts suggest that the rate would be 7.1% rather than the present 8.1% if the number of government jobs had not been reduced by President Obama's attempt to significantly reduce government spending to address the national debt.  Critics either choose to ignore those facts or are unaware of them.

But who are the people who cause the unemployment rate to drop because they have stopped looking for work?  Are they homeless, living on the streets?  Are they living with their parents or grandparents?  Or are they living off money that parent or grandparents are giving them to cover living expenses?  Are any of these people who are no longer seek jobs retired people who were  seeking jobs only to relieve themselves of the boredom of retirement?  Are some of these people who stopped looking spouses who were seeking additional income to help finance the children's college education or provide other financial help to children during their unemployment?  

Are some mothers who initially sought jobs to finance sending their children to daycare centers deciding that it is better and cheaper to stay home and care for the children themselves?  Did some of those who are no longer looking for jobs only seek those jobs in order to help buy homes they could not otherwise afford, but didn't really need and changed their minds?    

As was pointed out on one of the Sunday talk shows, many people are no longer looking for work because they have decided to further their education in an attempt to better qualify for the jobs that are available.  These are just examples of the many reasons, unrelated to the job market, why people may stop looking for jobs.   But how can one stop looking for jobs unless he or she doesn't really need a job to sustain their present mode of comfort and survival?  Yet, in discussions about unemployment rates, I never hear questions asked and serious discourse concerning the reasons some people no longer seek work and why some of these unemployed people can afford not to work.  

Furthermore, If people who, for whatever reason, do not really need jobs would not continue to apply for them, especially during periods of job shortages, more people who seek jobs because they need them would be able to find them.  Not only would the unemployment rate decline but so would the number of people who have stopped seeking jobs.   But these ideas and factors are never discussed.       

I'm sure real economists can find many things wrong with the questions I've asked and the conclusions I've reached about reasons for unemployment rates and why they change.  Some of the people who will dispute the merits of my questions and conclusions will do so for reasons that are more faulty than they claim mine to be.

If states like Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania have found that their unemployment rates declined significantly during the Obama presidency, it is just a matter of time before other states which availed themselves of the Obama stimulus will begin to see their unemployment rates decline.  Different states will respond to the stimuli at different rates and at different times because the stimulus funds financed different projects, in different communities, involving different workforces, and within different political environments at state levels.

Undoubtedly, the nation as a whole is better off today than it was four years ago.  Individually, most people are better off.  Check out 401(k)s and IRAs now and then where money remained invested.  Compare them with what they were four years ago when they were cut in half by Bush policies.  

Americans who have not seen any improvement must try to remain patient and expect the conditions that have caused other states to improve to eventually improve conditions within their states.  They should continue to place their trust in President Obama and a Democratic Congress and send them some help.  President Obama can't help anybody without some help himself against a do-nothing Congress.

Unemployment rates and the number of people who are no longer looking for jobs are significant, but on the surface they don't tell the whole truth about the nature of employment and underemployment, and the reasons for them.

Conald C. Spooner of Port Arthur is a retired educator. Contact Spooner at He blogs at


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