New Jobs Can't Keep Up With Population Growth

Jun 2, 2012
Originally published on June 2, 2012 5:05 pm
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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Among the now 12 million Americans out of work, almost half have been jobless for more than six months, the so-called long-term unemployed. In its latest issue, Bloomberg Businessweek magazine has profiled 12 people considered long-term unemployed. Josh Green is senior national correspondent with the magazine and is here to talk about those stories. Welcome.

JOSH GREEN: Good to be with you.

RAZ: Josh, this week, Bloomberg Businessweek's cover story is a sort of a photo essay with a series of stories about the long-term unemployed, people all around the country. How do those folks fit into these numbers that we're talking about?

GREEN: Well, this is really tough. There are 12.5 million unemployed people in the country right now and five million of them are categorized as being long-term unemployed.

RAZ: Which means...

GREEN: They've been out of work for at least six months. And what we did was go out - we sent photographers and a reporter out to follow 12 of these people who had been long-term unemployed and had managed to find work. And what we wanted to get at was to understand what it's like to go through that kind of searing personal experience in the teeth of a recession, what it took for them to persevere and ultimately get jobs.

RAZ: Talk about some of those folks.

GREEN: There's a young scientist - a senior scientist laid off, couldn't find a job for more than a year, had to take work as a Zumba instructor, teaching exercise classes. And she says in the story, you know, I'm a scientist. My whole identity is about being in a lab. And if I'm not in a lab, then what am I?

And one of the themes that you heard among all these people of all ages was this loss of identity. In addition to that, there is the financial struggle, obviously. The woman that stands out in my mind in the story is a woman from Florida named Cindy Harris, was 53 years old, had worked at the same company for 25 years as a payroll assistant, was laid off, wound up having to move back in with her mother.

RAZ: What happened to Cindy?

GREEN: She wound up moving back to her parents in Upstate New York, got a temp job, did a good job at it and eventually got brought on full time and is now looking for her own apartment.

RAZ: These folks profiled in the magazine this week are, in some ways, exceptions. There are more than five million long-term unemployed folks in this country. Are those jobs coming back?

GREEN: The jobs aren't coming back nearly as fast enough. And this is a long-term problem for the country. It isn't easy. But there are also some remarkable stories of, you know, just the kind of small triumphs along the way. One of the really moving examples in the piece was a union bricklayer who got laid off and had to care for his 11-year-old daughter, lost his health insurance, had to choose food over health insurance.

It says in the piece that as awful as the experience was, it taught his daughter the benefit of perseverance and hard work. And just a - it's a lesson I wouldn't have expected someone to take away from that. And it's really remarkable, the people that do persevere and find work.

RAZ: That's Josh Green. He's a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek joining us to talk about the jobless numbers in the cover story of the magazine this week. Josh, thanks so much.

GREEN: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.