In this Aug. 31, 2011 file photo, some of an estimated 4,000 people wait to enter a job fair called the "For The People Jobs Initiative," where job seekers met employers, job counselors, skills trainers and others, at Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles.

In this Aug. 31, 2011 file photo, some of an estimated 4,000 people wait to enter a job fair called the "For The People Jobs Initiative," where job seekers met employers, job counselors, skills trainers and others, at Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles.

The U.S. economy got some good news last week when the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in almost three years. But the job growth hasn’t reached over five million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months. Federal reserve chairman Ben Bernanke this week said record levels of the long-term unemployed will alter this country’s job market for the worse for the foreseeable future. Just who are those left behind as the economy improves and what are their options to get past their seemingly hopeless situation? Diane and her panel look at the challenges for the long-term unemployed.

Guests

  • Derek Thompson senior editor at the Atlantic
  • Ingrid Schroeder director of the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative
  • Stephen Rose research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
  • William Rodgers III professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University

Transcript

  • 10:06:56

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The economy added nearly 250,000 jobs in January, but millions of Americans have been out of work for more than six months. Joining us in the studio to talk about prospects for the long-term unemployed: Stephen Rose of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Ingrid Schroeder of the Pew Charitable Trust and Derek Thompson of the Atlantic magazine. Joining us from a studio at Rutgers University, William Rodgers of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

  • 10:07:43

    MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Feel free to send us a posting on Facebook or join us on Twitter. Good morning to all of you.

  • 10:08:02

    MS. INGRID SCHROEDERGood morning.

  • 10:08:02

    PROF. STEPHEN ROSEGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:08:03

    MR. DEREK THOMPSONGood morning.

  • 10:08:04

    PROF. WILLIAM RODGERS IIIGood morning.

  • 10:08:04

    REHMDerek, if I could start with you, talk about how many people make up the long-term unemployed.

  • 10:08:14

    THOMPSONRight. When we talk about the long-term unemployed -- and these are people who, like you said, have been out of work for six months or more -- we're talking about 5.5 million people. And to give you a sense of how much that is, that is basically the population of Minnesota. Most of these 5.5 million haven't just been out of work for six months. They've been out of work for more than a year. Four million of the 5.5 million have been out of work for more than a year, and these are what we might call the long, long-term unemployed.

  • 10:08:43

    THOMPSONAnd to give you a sense of the scale of the crisis, since December 2007, the number of people who have been out of work between, say, two and six months has doubled. That's a tragedy. But the number of people who have been out of work six months or more, these 5.5 million unemployed, they have quadrupled since December 2007. And that, right now, even with the good job news that we're seeing week after week, is the true tragedy, I think, of the Great Recession.

  • 10:09:11

    REHMStephen Rose, what's different for the long-term jobless than what we've seen in the past?

  • 10:09:20

    ROSEWell, basically, there's a thing called the rehiring rate, and the long-term unemployed always start out with a disadvantage. But, normally, there are much fewer of them. In this recession -- and recessions, in general, tend to be restructuring time. When economies are flush, employers are a little hesitant to fire people. But, when they have to fire people, then they use that time to really change their structure, to bring in some more equipment than to reorganize production.

  • 10:09:54

    ROSEAnd, right now, what that's meant is, as Derek pointed out, just an explosion in this six-month period. I mean, Americans have always relied on an open labor market where people would find a way to get a job as they became more desperate. And as it's gotten longer and longer, the stigma of being long-term unemployed, the employers are looking at them and going, hmm, why are they long-term unemployed? Maybe there's something I'm not seeing in this resume. It looks awfully good, but if no one else is seeing it, this is it, they turn away.

  • 10:10:33

    REHMAnd to you, Ingrid, I know that Pew recently did a study of the long-term unemployed. Tell me the basic findings.

  • 10:10:45

    SCHROEDERWell, what we did is we looked into the people who have been unemployed for a year or longer. And what we found was that 31 percent of the unemployed had actually been jobless for a year or more. Like Derek said, 4 million people, which to give context to that number, that's the population -- a little bit less than the population of Oregon. So that gives you a little bit of perspective on it. We also took a little bit of a slice and a deeper dive into looking at who makes up this population, looking at the age, education, and race and ethnicity.

  • 10:11:16

    SCHROEDEROne of the interesting findings is when you look at age is that people who are a little bit older, 55 or older, although they are less likely to become unemployed in the first place, they are more likely to be unemployed for a year or longer. So they're really facing a struggle out there. A matter of fact, 42 percent of unemployed workers older than 55 have been out of work for a year or more, higher than any other age group. So it's a pretty significant finding for people who have lost their job if they're 55 or older.

  • 10:11:44

    REHMAnd where are the unemployed?

  • 10:11:47

    SCHROEDERWell, when you look at it geographically, it's pretty interesting. You find that down in the South Atlantic region and in the Pacific region -- so Pacific would be like Oregon and Washington and California, and South Atlantic is Florida and Georgia and North and South Carolina -- that they actually are facing a significant long-term unemployment problem.

  • 10:12:07

    REHMAnd, finally, are -- as Stephen Rose implied, are they being laid off permanently?

  • 10:12:16

    SCHROEDERThis is actually a really interesting part of this particular recession. When you look at permanent versus temporary layoffs, this particular recession has been marred by more permanent layoffs and less temporary layoffs. Usually, during a recession, you see both of them increase. And during this recession, we actually saw temporary layoffs going down and permanent layoffs spiking quite sharply.

  • 10:12:39

    REHMAnd now to you, Bill Rodgers, I know that among the hardest hit are minorities. Talk about why this is.

  • 10:12:50

    IIISure. If I -- before I do that, I just want to add one other kind of historical perspective...

  • 10:12:55

    REHMSure.

  • 10:12:55

    III...on this challenge that we're facing today, that we're going to be facing not just next year but even over the next five to 10 years, and that is the 42 percent that are long -- considered long-term unemployed, you know, that's a historical record since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been calculating or estimating these numbers. Prior to this recession, 25 percent, roughly, was the record, and that was during the 1981-'82 recession in terms of the unemployed being long term. So we have just really, you know, shattered sort of past records.

  • 10:13:30

    REHMAll the records, yes.

  • 10:13:32

    IIIAnd -- but with regards to, you know, other sort of disparate impacts that occur, it's very well known and documented that African-Americans, Latinos and, particularly within those group, the young men in those groups, have faced greater challenges with regards to, you know, getting into the labor market and staying in the labor market. And as we would then expect, and you do see in the data, that this translates into greater long-term unemployment.

  • 10:14:03

    IIISo, for example, there's some estimates from the current population survey that blacks make up around 12 percent of the labor force. But from the standpoint of the sort of long-term unemployed, 27 weeks or more, they make up a fifth of that. Now, why is that? There's a whole set of reasons, ranging from education and training, ranging from being the youngest and the least skilled and thus you're at the lowest rungs of the totem pole or the job ladder.

  • 10:14:32

    IIIRange -- also issues surround what we call spatial mismatch, that is where people live in communities where they don't -- where the jobs aren't plentiful, and they'd have to move or be able to commute to the suburbs, and they have challenges with transportation. And then, finally, you also have issues centering around ex-offenders. This is one group of Americans that really has been neglected in this conversation about joblessness and about the recession, that ex-offenders have much, much greater challenges with regards to getting -- regaining a toehold in the labor market.

  • 10:15:06

    REHMAnd, Bill Rodgers, as I understand it, that Pew study showed that Latinos do not remain unemployed the way African-Americans and Asians do. Why do you believe that is?

  • 10:15:24

    IIIMm hmm. Well, there's a variety of reasons. You know, one is this -- what I just sort of mentioned, talking about the sort of the spatial aspect, a spatial mismatch. Some of the urban economists, urban researchers have found that Latinos, relative to African-Americans, are less racially segregated. And so in as much as we think space matters or the -- matters, that they'll have -- that they -- Latinos would have less of a challenge getting to those jobs.

  • 10:15:50

    IIIAlso, there's an immigrant component to, I think, some of those results, where any immigrants have fewer options or few opportunities and so may be willing to accept the lower wages that are offered in many of these jobs that have been created.

  • 10:16:06

    REHMAre there stereotypes, though, applied to both blacks and Latinos?

  • 10:16:14

    IIIYes. There's a great deal of research that has been done by sociologists, economists that has found that, particularly young African-American men, unfortunately, by many employers, are at the lower rungs of sort of feelings of, you know, being punctual, feelings of having the right skills. And Latinos are sort of viewed as have -- as having more of those desirable sort of qualities that employers are looking for. So, particularly, this really affects young minorities.

  • 10:16:48

    IIIAnd, actually, I did a study a number of years ago looking at the 1980s recession and recovery. And what I found there, it took the young men who had no more than 10 years of experience, young African-American men, it took them about a decade to catch up in terms of their earnings, power. So what we're -- so the challenge we're talking about today is not just a contemporary, you know, sort of static challenge for today. This is going to have repercussions for the future.

  • 10:17:15

    REHMDo you agree with that, Stephen Rose?

  • 10:17:19

    ROSECertainly. I mean, what we see is that careers have a certain path. And oftentimes, it's very important to get started young, and then you build up specific skills and specific context in that industry. And when you're knocked off and when you're permanently displaced, all of that can disappear. I mean, you try to do it. But if that connection is broken, it's almost like you have to start at -- back at the beginning.

  • 10:17:49

    ROSEAnd studies that I've done using longitudinal data that follow people over the years find that when people really get knocked off of the perch that they've been successful at, as Bill had said, 10 years later, they're just getting back to where they were. Now, admittedly, a career is one in which you're tending to have higher earnings as you age. So getting back to where you were doesn't mean getting back to where your compatriots were who stayed in those jobs.

  • 10:18:16

    ROSEAnd I found that it could be as many as 15 years before they kind of return at a growth rate and that what we're talking about is, you know, losing approximately, on average, 20 percent of your earnings for 15 years.

  • 10:18:30

    REHMStephen Rose, he is research professor at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Do join us, 800-433-8850.

  • 10:20:04

    REHMAnd welcome back. Here with me in the studio: Stephen Rose of Georgetown University, Ingrid Schroeder of the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative and Derek Thompson at the Atlantic. On the line with us is William Rodgers. He is professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. To you, Derek Thompson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made a speech this week on unemployment. What did he say about the long-term jobless? What was your reaction?

  • 10:21:06

    THOMPSONI thought it was interesting that Bernanke seemed to suggest that the unemployment rate of 8.3 percent actually understated the severity of the unemployment crisis. And this was really music to the ears of people who are looking to the Fed and also looking to Congress, if a little hopelessly, for them to do something more for the unemployed. It actually, in a weird paradoxical way, is good for the government to be overly or appropriately pessimistic...

  • 10:21:37

    REHMPessimistic.

  • 10:21:38

    THOMPSON...about the job situation because it increases the incentive to do something about it, and the last thing that we want out of Washington, especially now that is seems like we're turning a corner, especially in the job market, is for them to relax and say, oh, the job market is -- it's recovering on its own. It doesn't need our help anymore. It does need our help. It still needs low interest rates and spending.

  • 10:21:59

    REHMBill Rodgers, there are many people who would say, why hasn't the government done more? What can it do more of to help deal with this problem?

  • 10:22:15

    IIIWell, that's a question that we need a lot more time than we have, but let me take a stab at it. I mean, number one, it's -- as I learned when I worked for Secretary Herman, as our chief economist, our main economic adviser, number one, it's how you talk about the economy, that, as your guest -- your other guest just mentioned, that the government, the administration, Congress and particularly Ben Bernanke, they have to provide that message that says, you know, we are -- have turned the corner.

  • 10:22:48

    IIIYes. We've had 3.7 million new jobs since February of 2010. However, that is not enough. And this is important, from my experiences, 'cause it impacts consumer confidence, and I'm -- I am one of those folks who does believe that, you know, one of the main things that's got to happen for this economy to turn around for folks at the lower part or middle parts of the job ladder to get pulled back in, we have to see improved or stronger personal consumption.

  • 10:23:16

    IIIThe other piece that is quite related to that is the housing market. You know, there are efforts by the administration and by Congress, but these efforts probably need to be ramped up and stepped up a bit more. And then there's other efforts that are focused on, like on the long-term unemployed. The president has an initiative that was trying to make sure that we do not discriminate against the unemployed.

  • 10:23:40

    IIIAs Stephen said, there are perceptions and attitudes that emerge by employers and by the public. And in particular, I am -- I agree with the previous statement that this conversation -- and I thank you for having this conversation. These conversations have to continue because there is a growing and a pervasive, you know, sort of undercurrent that is out there, that people who are long-term unemployed are lazy.

  • 10:24:05

    IIIAnd that's -- you know, we've been extending unemployment insurance benefits for, you know, 12, 18 months, if not longer, and we still need to do that.

  • 10:24:16

    REHMAll right.

  • 10:24:17

    IIIWe also need to extend the payroll tax cut through the remainder of this year. So that's just a quick menu.

  • 10:24:22

    REHMLots to be done. Yes.

  • 10:24:25

    IIIUnfortunately, there's no silver bullet here. That's the (word?).

  • 10:24:26

    REHMI understand. Ingrid Schroeder, just before the break, Stephen Rose was talking about age. And I wonder what you learned about age and education regarding the long-term jobless.

  • 10:24:45

    SCHROEDERWell, when you look at education, it's actually a pretty interesting story. As one might guess, people who have more education are less likely to become unemployed in the first place. But when we looked at this during the fourth quarter of last year, it turned out that, no matter what your education level was, you were about the same likelihood to stay unemployed for a year or longer.

  • 10:25:06

    SCHROEDERSo whether you had a high school diploma or a graduate degree, it didn't really matter. Once you were unemployed, somewhere between 35 and 37 percent of people in your cohort will be -- stayed unemployed for a year or more, which sort of is the mixed signal there that, you know, education obviously does matter. But once you're unemployed, there's -- it's a difficult time for everyone.

  • 10:25:27

    REHMYou know, it's fascinating, Stephen Rose, because age and education would normally indicate experience and knowledge, and yet it seems to be working in the opposite direction.

  • 10:25:45

    ROSEWell, again, it goes to this notion of career fit. That is the reason why we have careers is that you build up all of these connections in your career. And when age -- when you lose that and you're approaching retirement and, you know, people are wondering how much should I invest in this worker, when, you know -- we have a lot people that change jobs, but, nonetheless, employers, when they start looking out, expect their employees to stay many years. And so they are thinking the long term.

  • 10:26:18

    ROSESo when an older person gets -- loses that connection and they can't easily make a transition in the same field, it's very hard for them to go laterally at a fairly high position in another job. It happens, but it's rare.

  • 10:26:33

    REHMDerek.

  • 10:26:34

    THOMPSONIt's interesting because most of the jobs that are coming back, at least, a lot of the jobs that are coming back, are extremely low paying. And what that means is that if you're out of work and you have a master's degree or a Ph.D. degree, that doesn't help you get a job that only pays $30- or $40,000 a year. It's interesting. The Atlantic did this experiment last year. We asked all of our readers to send in their stories about unemployment.

  • 10:26:58

    THOMPSONAnd we got, I think, about 10 different responses from people with master's or Ph.D. degrees, saying, I am withholding from my application the fact that I have a master's because I'm concerned...

  • 10:27:10

    REHMWow.

  • 10:27:11

    THOMPSON...right -- because I'm concerned the employer is going to say, if this is a guy with 14 years of education or 16 years of education, there is no way he's going to keep this job that only pays $35,000 a year. He's going to leave the second he finds something better. We're going to hire someone with maybe only associate degree. They're a better fit.

  • 10:27:30

    THOMPSONSo even if the demand among the long-term unemployed includes a lot of people that have Ph.D. or master's degrees -- although it should be said that these people have a lower overall rate of unemployment -- since the jobs that are coming back aren't receptive to these sort of degrees, most of them, they're less likely to find that perfect fit.

  • 10:27:48

    REHMAnd just to follow up on that, to you, Bill Rodgers. The National Federation of Independent Business did a survey, saying that more than a third of entrepreneurs said they had tried to hire someone in the last several months but had been unable to find candidates with "appropriate skills." But nobody is saying exactly what those appropriate skills are. How can one define that?

  • 10:28:30

    IIIYeah. Well, before I try to answer that, let me react to this previous comment that -- just be blunt about it. With many of employers, you know, that older workers are, in their eyes, too expensive, all right, that they're viewed as being too expensive, that if I do have a position, I'm going to possibly put someone in there who's younger, who, by the end of the day, I can pay less. But if employers have a broader view of what this potential worker or individual older worker can bring to them, that I think it turns into a win-win situation for them.

  • 10:29:05

    IIIAnd I think what's happened with this great recession and this, what I call pothole recovery or tale of two cities for many people, is that it's causing many folks to have -- to press the reset button. So, you know, instead of focusing so much on cost and the bottom line that if -- as Secretary Bob Rice used to say, or still says at many times, is that we need to treat our individuals as -- our workers as assets to be groomed, that those people might end up wanting to stay and get back on a career ladder.

  • 10:29:35

    REHMBut...

  • 10:29:36

    IIIAnd to your question or this thing about, you know, employers -- and I think there's been a variety of research that has been done. When you ask employers, what skills do you need, many times they go back to you, they are not sure. But there has been other work that talks to school guidance counselors, to educators and just general sort of people who look into the future, what are the skills demanded. And it's all about we're in the services.

  • 10:30:03

    IIIWe're into information. We're into persuasion. So it's team skills. It's skills about how well you can -- you communicate. It is, you know, sort of the ability to smile. And maybe for some of the long-term unemployed, we may say this isn't a big issue...

  • 10:30:20

    REHMAll right.

  • 10:30:20

    IIIBut I know for -- again, for ex-offenders, for that population I've worked with and studied, that's a big issue, and trying to -- relearning how to smile.

  • 10:30:26

    REHMInteresting. Stephen Rose, what are the retraining options for the long-term unemployed?

  • 10:30:35

    ROSEWell, very few is the short answer.

  • 10:30:39

    REHMYeah. Yeah.

  • 10:30:40

    ROSEI mean, community colleges are doing now more and more, and for-profit schools are obviously filling a gap and have been growing very fast, these vocational and business schools. They rely very heavily on government-subsidized loans and Pell Grants. And there's a -- we want to make sure that we get our money's worth. Some people have abused this and really encouraged people to take on loans without programs that they have.

  • 10:31:08

    ROSEBut in general, for instance, if we compare ourselves to other advanced industrial countries, we spend remarkably little on retraining, about two-tenths of 1 percent of GDP, where other countries spend as much as 1 percent of GDP. Overall, on labor market policies, we spend less than one-half of 1 percent of GDP, and other European countries spend 2 percent.

  • 10:31:33

    REHMIt doesn't make sense.

  • 10:31:35

    ROSEWell, it's kind of been this American bravado of you can do it on your own, and government is not there for you. And we'll just let you succeed, but we'll also let you fail.

  • 10:31:46

    REHMAnd if you fail, it's because you're lazy.

  • 10:31:50

    ROSEExactly. Blame the victim.

  • 10:31:51

    REHMBlame the victim.

  • 10:31:53

    IIIAnd that is, as I said, an undercurrent that's right out there that started back in the early '80s, and it's sitting there. And this -- and people are going to be using the fact that we can't afford these expenditures as a way to basically push us down that path that Stephen is talking about. And what's very disturbing, it's beyond just education, which is what we call human capital. It's also -- we've seen a slowdown.

  • 10:32:18

    IIIWhenever we've seen a slowdown in our investment, it means social capital, so human capital, social capital. Social capital is investing in parks, investing in libraries, investing in social safety nets. Some of the research that I've done -- we've done that. We've seen that slowdown in the 1970s, in the 1980s. We've seen growing income inequality, and that's what we're seeing today.

  • 10:32:39

    REHMWilliam Rodgers at Rutgers University. We're going to open the phones very shortly. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Derek Thompson, the one thing we haven't talked about is the emotional aspect of being among those who are unemployed for the long term. It's got to be so difficult.

  • 10:33:08

    THOMPSONRight. In the project that The Atlantic did that solicited responses from the long-term unemployed, we probably got three big themes to talk about. The first was that a lot of people said looking for a job is a full-time job. There are so many different sorts of industries that you have to apply to and so few jobs that -- looking for the right fit, applying and sending out your resumes to all your possible contacts takes a lot of your time.

  • 10:33:37

    THOMPSONThe second theme was how misunderstood the unemployed felt. There is this sense, I think, that's sort of pervasive and hard to put your finger on it, that the long-term unemployed are lazy. How are you out of work for six months? How are you out of work for more than a year? There must be laziness, and, you know, combating that stigma is extremely difficult. And, finally, in addition to this quasi-political stigma, there's also an emotional and social stigma, this idea that, you know, you make so many friends in your career at the place that you work. You like the -- you like your colleagues.

  • 10:34:10

    THOMPSONThis is, you know, who you go out with after the day ends. If you're removed from this experience for six months, one year, even your old friends who are still working and moving through their careers no longer have this point of contact with you where they can talk about work. And it seems like a small thing. But, when you're talking about how people feel in their day-to-day life when they can't find work, they need all the emotional uplift they can get. And if they find they're losing their connections with their friends, that's, I think, an under-ratedly (sic) difficult thing to overcome.

  • 10:34:44

    REHMStephen Rose, has anyone done a connection between the long-term unemployed and those who are losing their homes?

  • 10:34:59

    ROSEObviously, it's a high number. I mean...

  • 10:35:01

    REHMIt's got to be.

  • 10:35:02

    ROSEYes.

  • 10:35:03

    REHMIt's got to be.

  • 10:35:04

    ROSEI mean, you -- we are in this housing crisis of unprecedented proportions because of the crazy run-up and all the crazy practices that were used in enticing people. I mean, the worst offenses were what are called affinity housing broker -- mortgage brokers, who went to people, and they showed up on their doorstep and they said, you know, you don't have a mortgage now, but, you know, for virtually no money, we can fix that roof. We can do this.

  • 10:35:35

    ROSEThey put them -- and as we know, the liar loans and the fact that so many people were put in these situations. And, you know, it just rebounds in so many bad ways.

  • 10:35:44

    REHMI want to ask one thing of all of you before we go to a break and begin taking calls. Realistically, are many of these jobs gone for good, Stephen Rose?

  • 10:36:03

    ROSEOf course, yes.

  • 10:36:05

    REHMYes.

  • 10:36:05

    ROSEThey just are. I mean, you really are going to have to retool, and you're going to have to find that new niche.

  • 10:36:11

    REHMAnd how often in our society has this kind of turnover happened when you simply leave behind some workers?

  • 10:36:24

    ROSEIt's always happened. You know, economists have a fancy term that sounds nice: creative destruction. What's really happened is how many, as Bill Rodgers cited early, the -- in 1982, only 25 percent of the unemployed were the six months-plus unemployed, and now we're at nearly 40 percent. I mean, this is just unprecedented, and so the numbers are just quite large.

  • 10:36:49

    REHMIngrid.

  • 10:36:50

    SCHROEDERThe long-term unemployment rate for those -- for a year or more is actually at historic high as well, rates that we haven't seen since the aftermath of World War II. However, what I would like to point out is that unemployment is a lagging indicator. So that's fancy speak for saying that, as the economy starts to recover, unemployment takes a little longer to catch up with that. So it's not all depressing. People will get jobs. It's just it takes a little longer, as the economy recovers, for those jobs to come back.

  • 10:37:21

    REHMI hope you're right. Ingrid Schroeder. She's director of the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. We're going to take a short break here. And when we come back, it's your turn. We'll take your calls, your email, your postings on Facebook and your tweets.

  • 10:40:04

    REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First, we'll go to Choctaw, Ariz. (sic) Good morning, Barbara. You're on the air.

  • 10:40:14

    BARBARAGood morning, Diane. I love your program...

  • 10:40:15

    REHMThank you.

  • 10:40:15

    BARBARA...and I think this is a very important topic. And...

  • 10:40:17

    REHMSo do I.

  • 10:40:19

    BARBARA...your guests are covering it in more detail and in more intelligent detail than I've heard in a long time. I'm in Choctaw, Ark., not Arizona, by the way. And the last time I worked was for the U.S. Census in 2009 and 2010. Those jobs were counted as jobs, but they were very low wage, and they were terminal. I knew I wasn't going to have a job after that project was finished, and they made it very clear that there were no jobs down the road. It would just be, you know, another resume item for me to go out some place else and look for work elsewhere.

  • 10:40:52

    BARBARAI am calling because I just get annoyed when the job statistics are quoted and they're fairytales. There are jobs, and then there are jobs. And I would love it if we started reporting what the jobs pay, how long the jobs are going to last and whether there is any opportunity for advancement because so many people who are looking for work maybe, at this point, are going to take whatever they can get. But long term, I don't think our country is in very good shape, and I -- statistics that we hear are telling us the full story.

  • 10:41:25

    REHMAll right. OK. Stephen Rose.

  • 10:41:33

    ROSELooking at the new jobs, what we see is that, you know, there is actually a lot of hiring going on, normally. That is up to a million jobs. People are leaving and hiring in a week in normal situations. And now we still have those million leaving, but we only have about 700,000-a-week hiring. So we have this notion of there's five unemployed for every opening. There's a thing called the jobs openings and labor turnover survey that we do. What we found, more surprisingly, is that there are a limited number of jobs open for high-end jobs.

  • 10:42:09

    ROSEAnd the middle jobs have been really hit very hard, that what we've seen in this recession is, amongst the new jobs, what aren't there are the middle jobs. So if you have an advanced degree and you can find those openings, you have a chance. But for people with moderate levels of education, the stepping stone career jobs are very few, and, as the caller said, there -- a large number of these low-end jobs that are rotating constantly.

  • 10:42:37

    REHMDerek Thompson.

  • 10:42:38

    SCHROEDERThat's exactly right. Steve's exactly right. What you're really seeing is sort of two different economies that are coming out of the great recession, one in which there is healthy-ish (sic) hiring for college degree holders who haven't been out of work for more than six months. When we did a study of the 1.6 million jobs added in 2011, the category with the most hirings was for white-collar workers. But then there's the second economy where there are also a lot of jobs being added in industries that just don't pay very much.

  • 10:43:08

    THOMPSONThe next fastest-growing sectors include retail, health and your home-care aids, education, manufacturing, even a little bit of construction. These are jobs that don't pay very well. So it really is a sort of -- it's a two-speed recovery, one for the college degree earners and one for the low-wage earners.

  • 10:43:27

    REHMAnd here's an email on that very subject from Debra in Brighton, Mass., who says, "I've seen a trend of employers creating part-time jobs as a way to avoid paying benefits. Is this exploiting the level of unemployment?" Bill Rogers.

  • 10:43:52

    IIIYeah. That's a great insight. And what we do see typically in a recovery -- and this, unfortunately, is our third jobless recovery in our sort of second, if you will, two-speed economy that Derek's calling it, or I call it the pothole economy. And that's how employers will first do two things because of the uncertainty or because of the lack of consumption by individuals, is that they'll start to increase hours of their current workers. So they're demanding those people to be more productive, and some people can argue that that's an exploitation.

  • 10:44:29

    IIIAnd then -- but then they also will start to, instead of using full-time workers, from the standpoint of maximizing profits or minimizing costs, right, they're going to go and call up Kelly Associates or other temp agencies in their communities and hire those individuals first. Now, the good news is that as we progress into the sort of 3.7 million new private-sector jobs since February 2010, the share of those jobs that have been growing has -- that are -- in the temp industry has -- that share has fallen. So that's good news.

  • 10:45:02

    IIIAnd the other good news seem to be out of this recent jobs report that many of the -- many people thought that the growth in December was because of sort of seasonal -- and I know there are seasonal adjustments, so it could have been seasonally sort of unexpected growth in a holiday type of hiring. But the fact that we had a second consecutive month of job creation in excess of 200,000, you know, that's suggestive that at least the quantity story is starting to improve.

  • 10:45:30

    IIIBut the previous caller from Arkansas, you know, I think she also makes a great point. And there has been some research, but it's not done actively or formally by the government. Or I think it's the National Employment Law Project. They actually have estimated by industry and looked at sort of the average wages of where the jobs are being created. And it's also consistent with what Derek was saying, that these average -- the job growth in these industries tend to be in lower -- at lower industries or industry pay below average wages.

  • 10:46:00

    REHMAll right. To Dallas, Texas, good morning, Richard. Let's try that again. Richard, are you there?

  • 10:46:10

    RICHARDYes. Can you hear me?

  • 10:46:11

    REHMCertainly can. Go right ahead, sir.

  • 10:46:14

    RICHARDYeah. Thank you for having me on. I've been listening very keenly here. They've -- the speakers here brought up some of the things that I have been concerned with, but one of the questions I had was I have an advanced degree, and I have been looking -- and the jobs I applied for -- first of all in the Dallas market, we have a large IT market here, so there are a lot of IT jobs. And many of them list, the ones that I apply for anyway, advanced degree preferred.

  • 10:46:45

    RICHARDAnd I have applied for the last year-and-a-half for literally hundreds of positions, and not only do I not get any interviews, you know, I can't get anyone to even talk to me. And I'm, like, surprised because I hear all these employers complaining that they can't find qualified people, and yet I have most everything they want on their list of requirements, including an advanced degree, and yet I can't even get them to talk to me.

  • 10:47:13

    REHMAnd that is an indication of how many people there are, like Richard, with advanced degrees applying for the same jobs, Derek.

  • 10:47:26

    THOMPSONThat's exactly right. And, you know, like Ingrid's research showed, you know, in the group of people who are long, long-term unemployed, out of work for more than a year, it -- the sad reality is that it doesn't appear from the research like having a advanced degree, having a master's degree carries any sort of advantage. You have, basically, about -- between 30 and 38 percent of each of these buckets, whether it's less than a high school degree, more than a high school degree, advanced degree, they're all long, long-term unemployed.

  • 10:48:02

    THOMPSONAnd, you know, this is one of the central tragedies, is that there's an American deal that's sort of implicit in the American dream, that if you go to school longer, you will have a better chance to be employed. The more you learn, the more you earn. And it just doesn't seem to be coming true for these people out of work for more than a year.

  • 10:48:18

    REHMAll right. To Fayetteville, N.C., good morning, Dean. Thanks for joining us.

  • 10:48:24

    DEANGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:48:27

    REHMSurely.

  • 10:48:29

    DEANMy comment has to do with minorities in the workforce today and specifically African-American men. I believe that the most employed people today are white men, white women and then minority women and then African-American men. Black men are seen as a little more aggressive in the workforce, so I think that they are probably let go first. And then when the hiring prospects are to return back to work -- come along for a corporation, they hire Hispanics because they are bilingual.

  • 10:49:08

    DEANAnd I think employees see an advantage in bilinguals just because they're bilingual, and maybe not necessarily as qualified. I'm not being prejudiced about it. I'm just saying that I believe that is what is happening in our workforce today.

  • 10:49:26

    REHMIs that the case, Bill Rodgers, that bilingual skills help an employee or prospective employee to gain a job?

  • 10:49:38

    IIIYes. And -- you know, and it really also -- but it depends on where you live. I mean, if you were in the New Jersey area, New York City area, where you're already seeing what America's going to look like racially in the next 10 to 20 years, you know, those -- having those additional skills of being able to speak Spanish, Chinese, those matter because we have a growing number of consumers that -- consumer markets that transcend to the traditional...

  • 10:50:09

    REHMInteresting.

  • 10:50:09

    III...American markets. So it's a very important skill. But I think the other piece that I hear in Dean's comment is that -- and I didn't mention earlier when I talked about the myriad of challenges that African-Americans face is, one, that discrimination still is an unfortunate feature or experience that African-American men and any -- and African-American women also have.

  • 10:50:34

    IIIWhat's -- what I think is another sort of creating challenge for African-Americans and women is that, as we saw private sector job creation return starting in February 2010, that's when we also begin to see the cuts in the public sector.

  • 10:50:51

    REHMAll right. And...

  • 10:50:52

    IIIWhy is this -- why -- and why is this important? Well, public sector has -- was an area that minorities and women got their initial toehold into the middle class. That was a job or a set of occupations that were viewed as being fair, providing good compensation, not only decent wages, but also a pension and health care. And so many minorities -- there's been almost 500,000 public sector jobs that have been cut since February 2010 in, predominantly, the state and local levels.

  • 10:51:20

    IIISo this is going to be another sort of drag on the recovery that could then also put minorities in a disadvantage of being able to sort of prosper as the broader economy continues to grow.

  • 10:51:34

    REHMAnd now to Lansing, Mich. Good morning, Jessica. Thanks for joining us.

  • 10:51:41

    JESSICAGood morning, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.

  • 10:51:42

    REHMSure.

  • 10:51:43

    JESSICAI work for a large retailer in the Lansing, Mich. area. And, you know, we're in an area that's got really tough economy. And I know there's a certain stigma around working in retail, but I'm actually having quite a hard time finding quality people just because of an overall lack of interview skills and overall lack of ability to present themselves while in a work setting and interview setting. I think this is speaking more volumes to -- I have jobs. And I can't fill them because I can't find the right people.

  • 10:52:17

    JESSICAI think we need to have more training and jobs and development around interviewing skills, and let's invest into that because that will help my business grow if I can find better people.

  • 10:52:28

    REHMDerek.

  • 10:52:29

    THOMPSONIt's interesting. In The Atlantic's Project that asked people to give their testimonials about unemployment, we actually heard from a lot of employers who said, you know, we are finding it difficult to find the right people. And they mentioned interview skills as being one of the criteria that they were finding lacking. You know, it's interesting because unemployment and desperation in unemployment isn't spread across the U.S. perfectly, evenly like butter.

  • 10:52:53

    THOMPSONI mean that it's really spotty, and it's spiky. And you'll find, you know, a higher share of long-term unemployed potentially in the South, in the Sun Belt states that's been hurt by the housing crisis the worst and, you know, this where -- this might be where most people are stuck. And then, you know, in places like Michigan, you might have a lot of these people who had moved out in the last few years because they thought they might be able to find opportunities elsewhere. A geographical issue, it's spiky and tough to predict before here.

  • 10:53:20

    REHMDerek Thompson at The Atlantic magazine. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, lately there's been lots of talk about food stamps, with Newt Gingrich calling President Obama the food stamp president. What are your thoughts on that, Stephen Rose?

  • 10:53:43

    ROSEWell, I think, this is just really him blaming the victim. I mean, what we know is this has been a really hard crisis. We've been discussing for the last -- nearly an hour, about all of this long-term unemployed. And as I noted earlier, we spent less than other countries on helping people who are displaced like this. And the notion that what little we spend should then be held against President Obama, it's kind of morally repugnant. I mean, to say that people who need food stamps -- and it's not any policy decisions that Obama has been doing. This is just qualifications.

  • 10:54:20

    ROSEIt has -- is your income less than a certain amount of money and we'll help you. What is the alternative that Gingrich wants? That they should sit and starve in the streets, or they should beg more? I find it pretty distressing that he thinks that he can get away and say this so publicly.

  • 10:54:38

    REHMIngrid Schroeder.

  • 10:54:40

    SCHROEDERWhen you look at sort of how -- what spending is like on unemployment or any of the other programs, I mean, these are tough policy decisions, but particularly at time where we look at our debt and look at what's going on with just general government spendings. So, you know, an anneal position of any person in Congress or the president trying to figure out how to parse out this money, it's tough, particularly during the time of fiscal crisis.

  • 10:55:03

    REHMAnd one last question, Derek Thompson, this idea of extending unemployment benefits, what are the realities, what are the possibilities?

  • 10:55:17

    THOMPSONExtending unemployment benefits, in my view, is not only economically necessary, it's also fair and moral and actually probably good for the general economy. There's this idea, which I tend to agree with, that when you have an economy that's acting subpar, you want to put money in the hands of people who are mostly likely to spend it, people who are cash needy, cash poor. These people are the unemployed.

  • 10:55:45

    THOMPSONIf we want to spend money wisely and get it circulated around the economy and juice up demanding areas that'll increase employment there, we want to give unemployed people money and get them spending it.

  • 10:55:58

    REHMAnd, realistically, what do you think the prospects are on Capitol Hill?

  • 10:56:02

    THOMPSONI think the prospects on Capitol Hill is that there will be no deal until 11:59 on the proverbial -- and 59 seconds on the proverbial clock. And then at the very last minute, they'll strike some deal. But once, you know, to dip into politics...

  • 10:56:15

    REHMBefore the election?

  • 10:56:17

    THOMPSONOh, no, before the end of the month. Yeah, before they come up for...

  • 10:56:20

    REHMBefore the end of the month?

  • 10:56:21

    THOMPSON...renewal. Yeah. It's in their public interest, I think, to wait until the last minute and show that they're putting a fight against the president.

  • 10:56:29

    REHMDerek Thompson of The Atlantic magazine, Ingrid Schroeder of the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative, Stephen Rose of Georgetown University, William Rogers of Rutgers University. Thank you all so much for being with us.

  • 10:56:50

    IIIThank you. It's our pleasure.

  • 10:56:50

    SCHROEDERThank you.

  • 10:56:50

    THOMPSONOur pleasure.

  • 10:56:51

    REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 10:56:55

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is drshow@wamu.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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