Slowly, over the last year, it’s begun to dawn on us: The economic recovery isn’t really making a dent in unemployment. The public knew this much earlier than economists or pundits did, and as for politicians — don’t ask!
Survey after survey showed Americans didn’t believe the economy was recovering. And people who commented on MarketWatch articles have been downright hostile to any notion that either the markets or the economy were getting better.
But economists need hard data before changing their minds. And over the past few months, more and more of them have concluded that indeed the depth of this particular recession and its roots in the financial crisis have combined with structural changes in the economy to push the so-called “natural” unemployment rate in the U.S. permanently higher.
There are 14 million unemployed people in the U.S.; 9.3 million more are “involuntary” part-time workers. And 2.5 million others were “marginally” attached to the labor force, having not technically looked for a job for four weeks, according to the BLS.
That’s nearly 26 million people, almost 17% of the labor force. It’s an “army of the unemployed” more than ten times the size of the U.S. military and its reserves.
Right now they’re despondent. But if they ever got angry, they would make Occupy Wall Street look like, well, a tea party.