SAN FRANCISCO, CA — We’re all familiar with the monthly unemployment rate referred to as U-3.
Last month it rose to 9.2%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports, with considerable less fanfare, U-6: workers under-employed – part time workers, working even one hour a week, but seeking full time work. The unemployment and under-employment rate last month reached 16% of American workers.
There’s a third less known rate: the long term discouraged workers rate. These are workers who have given up looking for work and have lost their unemployment benefits. Taken together, the unemployed, underemployed, and discouraged workers reached 23% last month.
In other words: nearly one quarter of American workers —roughly 25 million American workers— are struggling with serious employment worries.
Besides these, 2012 presidential candidates should fear another large group of American workers, which I call the “nervously employed.”
These are workers who fear their full time jobs could vanish: a project terminated (e.g., Space Shuttle program), contracting out of operations (see below,) failure of a speculative venture, or falling sales (e.g.,RIM/Blackberry, 2,000 workers terminated.)
Take the BMW Parts distribution center in Ontario, California. Their union, the Teamsters Union, was ready to negotiate concessions to extend the union contract. Instead, in June, they were told the plant was closing down, after 40 years of uninterrupted operations.
“Of the employees to be laid off (according to a notice BMW sent the union), 27 are age 50 or older. The word that came most often to the lips of workers and their families I’ve talked to is ‘devastated,’” reported the LA Times.
These are the nervously employed: not secure with their long term jobs, reading monthly about hundreds of thousands filing for unemployment benefits, and watching the base unemployment rising, not dropping, as it did last month.
How many American workers make up the nervously employed?
Gallup conducted a poll late last month that sheds light on this.
They asked worker to rate their employment situation. The groups break down between those who said they were ‘thriving’ and those said their lives were worrisome. There’s a surprising result.
Among those earning $90,000 or more, 59% said they were not thriving. Overall, 42% of men, and 49% of women could not say they were thriving.
Jobs and the economy were the issues in the last presidential race. Four years later, jobs and economy will be foremost in the minds of voters. (Gallup reported last month only 31% thought the economy was improving.)
American workers – unemployed, under-employed, no longer looking for work, and especially the nervously employed — want answers to this fundamental question: how will you restore a robust economy that will bring us new jobs and new job security.