A moral disability: Dispiriting findings on long-term unemployment

I am not among those who believe that poverty builds character — I can do without that kind of character — but I do sometimes almost feel sorry for those friends of mine who’ve always had it a little too good, who don’t have any funny stories about roadside misadventures caused by having a crappy 22-year-old car, the semester they spent semi-homeless, the people they met working on a farm or doing day labor. I don’t want to have those kinds of adventures now, and I didn’t want to have them at the time, either, but sometime between then and now I became glad that they had happened.

And that is what is particularly despair-inducing about the latest research on long-term unemployment from Express Employment Professionals, a large international staffing agency. If you’ve been following my reporting and arguments about the condition of the white underclass — and the emotionally incontinent response to it from some quarters—none of this will be exactly surprising. But lament in confirmation.

The largest age cohort in this study of long-term unemployment turns out to be young people, those aged 18 to 29, who account for 33 percent of the jobless in this survey. A large majority — 61 percent — say they are “not at all willing” to relocate for a job, while only 4 percent say they already had done so. Some 17 percent of them have college degrees, and, among those with degrees, more than half said they wished they’d done something else, concentrating instead on vocational training rather than on graduating from college. A large majority of them say that they would rather remain unemployed than work for minimum wage, and half of them haven’t had a job interview since 2014. Given a choice between Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump, they are almost evenly split, with Mrs. Clinton enjoying a very slight advantage.

Where will they go? Nowhere, apparently. What will they do?