Unemployment Rollercoaster

At the end of September, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) appeared before the Senate Budget Committee and presented their outlook on the economy, the deficit, and unemployment. (Click to enlarge in separate tab)

Source:  Congressional Budget Office (Click on Director’s Slide Show)

The recessions of 1980 – 81 and 1982 – 83 were really one long recession.  A several month uptick between the two recessions is the only thing that separates them.  It took several years before the National Bureau of Economic Research had enough firm data to call it two separate recessions.  I will call it a “recessionary period.”

Although this recession officially ended in June 2009, the persistently high unemployment, similar to the levels of 1980 – 1983, makes the present period an equally severe period.  But what makes the current malaise truly stand out is the rate of the long term unemployed, as shown in the graph below.

What surprised me is that men consistently suffer much higher levels of unemployment in tough times even though they are only slightly more than half of the workforce.  According to the Dept of Labor, women made up 46.8% of the workforce in 2009.  This is probably due to the greater number of men workers in the construction field, which generally suffers heavily during recessions.

For many men younger than 50 in the construction trades, these past two years may be the wake up call – that they need to build a more versatile skill set; that they can’t rely on a high school education and a learned trade skill to get them by; and in good times, it is wise to put some of the beer, boat and truck money in a savings account.

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