Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Some Rational Thinking on Unemployment, Long-Term and Otherwise

Megan McArdle has a very nice article here on the causes of unemployment, and the causes of extended unemployment. The studies that she cites mirror what I've seen with respect to the unemployed workforce, both from a personal and professional standpoint. But very little of this type of rational, numbers-based discussion seems to make it into the mainstream debate about the issue.

Bottom line-extended benefits for unemployment, whether characterized as unemployment compensation, disability benefits, or whatever, seem to exacerbate the long-term unemployment issue. People are apparently willing to tolerate a lower standard of living for an extended time when getting reemployed becomes difficult.  Making it difficult to fire people makes employers unwilling to hire people; the United States has a much lower unemployment rate than most the countries in Europe, where job security exists as a matter of law.  And finally, programs that ease the emotional discomfort of job hunting (not unemployment, per se) seem to be the most effective at getting people back to work.

This article contains some very useful thoughts for public policy types dealing with what is starting to appear like an intractable problem.