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What the unemployment rate doesn't tell you about men who have stopped looking for work

What the unemployment rate doesn't tell you about men who have stopped looking for work
Young men fill out job applications in Saginaw, Mich. (David C. Bristow / Saginaw News)

To the editor: I am one of those 7 million unemployed men that the government does not count in unemployment statistics. ("The U.S. labor force's guy problem: Lots of men don't have a job and aren't looking for one," Nov. 21)

The government only knows how many people are employed and how many are collecting unemployment benefits. These are the numbers used to calculate the unemployment statistics. When unemployment benefits run out (between six and nine months, depending on the state), we simply disappear from the statistics.

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I was laid off five years ago when the unemployment rate was greater than 10%. Since then, the rate has gone down, not only because those unemployed people found jobs, but also because their unemployment benefits ran out. As you reported, there are now more than 7 million men (and how many women?) who are still unemployed but not counted in the government statistics.

There have been many articles in The Times regarding the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County. Perhaps many of those people are also among the millions of unemployed workers who are no longer counted. This tragedy will continue until people learn to recognize the true magnitude of the unemployment problem and find a way to reverse it.

John Jensen, Torrance

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To the editor: To the theories the writer offers to explain this missing men phenomenon, I'd offer one more.

That would be the ever-increasing need for some degree of technological aptitude for today's jobs, a problem that intensifies every year. It would be easy to see how that requirement in a list of employment demands would discourage many to whom a computer is something they don't get the hang of.

Might this account for a part of that universe of able-bodied men who have felt it necessary to shrink back into the safety of their Luddite zone of comfort?

Jules Brenner, Hollywood

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To the editor: Prison, painkillers are video games are suggested as causes for mass male unemployment. I'd like to add pornography to that list.

We can giggle about an unemployed guy viewing porn, but I would argue the stuff is addictive and fits into the exact kind of videogame lifestyle that University of Chicago economist Erik Hurst writes about.

Also, I completely disagree with the Los Angeles City Council proposal to discourage employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history. I am completely within my rights to look a guy who pointed a gun at someone else or attempted to kill a person and say, "I don't want this guy on my team."

Brendan Avenya, Los Angeles

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