UPDATE: The number of Americans who have given up looking for work has remained unchanged since April, which means June's jobless rate declined for the right reason: because people found jobs. Read more here.
Story about the under-employed and the long-term unemployed begins here:
President Barack Obama recently toured the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on one of his “day in the life” tours to engage with everyday people. The president lunched with Rebekah Erler, a 36-year-old working mom struggling with child care and education bills after her husband’s construction business went under during the last recession.
Meanwhile, 18 miles south in the suburb of Eagan, the Adair family of six struggles to make ends meet on one meager income. Mike is an IT architect by trade, but his last job interview was in September. His wife Debbie draws a $32,000 salary as an administrative assistant position at Delta Air Lines. They have four children, which puts them at the official poverty line.
“When I try to apply even for entry-level IT jobs, they look at my resume and they say I’m over qualified,” he told International Business Times by phone on Thursday. “If I apply for a job I am qualified to do, they think I’ve been out of the workforce for too long that my skills aren’t up to date.”
Mike is one of the 3.1 million Americans who have been unemployed for at least six months. Though Thursday’s jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows enduring unemployment among jobless Americans has fallen by more than half since the summer of 2010, the rate is still nearly three times higher than it was before the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, Mike, 48, isn’t getting younger in a labor market rife with age-based discrimination. To try to remain active, he volunteers at local charities, like Meals on Wheels, and hopes he can transfer his skills into non-profit management. He dreams of developing business helping these groups manage their IT operations.
Asked if he’s sensed an improvement in the jobs market in suburban Minnesota, he scoffs.
“With all of the outsourcing going on with companies these days, it seems employers are not investing in people or their communities,” Adair said. “Those outsourced workers are no longer part of the family of that corporation so they’re not really cared for. Companies are not investing in the American people.”
Eleven hundred miles to the Southeast in Atlanta, Georgia, Janet Michael is lucky to be employed, barely. Consider her one of the 2.6 million Americans Thursday’s jobs report identified as people who can only find part time work when they would rather work full time.
Despite nearly 30 years of manufacturing experience, Janet has had no luck finding a job in her field since 2009 when the now-defunct National Envelope Corp. shut down its Nashville, Tennessee, plant. Hoping a larger city would offer more opportunities, she moved south to Atlanta with her fiancée.
But five years later, the mother of three has had no luck getting her feet back onto a production floor as a factory production planner. Janet’s husband Steve Michael, a truck owner-operator, has helped to keep the bills paid. Janet works a part-time job as a motorcycle safety instructor at a local Harley-Davidson dealership.
“Here in Georgia, manufacturing doesn't pay very much,” said Janet, 55. “My biggest frustration is that management does not look at seasoned applicants with the thought in mind, ‘this person can possibly bring a lot of experience to the operations department that can become an asset to the team with minimal cost.’”
Janet, who once earned $23 an hour (the equivalent of $44 in current dollars) at a General Motors assembly plant across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario, said she recently applied to work at a manufacturer of industrial yarns used in auto parts. The job: a machine operator for $9 an hour.
She was passed over for a younger male candidate whose previous job, she said, was in fast food.
On Thursday, markets rallied following the release of the Department of Labor data, which came out a day early this month ahead of the annual Fourth of July U.S. Independence Day celebrations.
But for the nearly 6 million Americans like Mike and Janet who have either been jobless for too long or struggle to find full time work, there is no cause to celebrate conditions in the U.S. labor market.