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The Catastrophe of Mass Unemployment

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In addition to the direct misery, why it’s so important in the medium- and long-term as well:

Close your eyes and picture the scariest thing you can think of. Maybe it’s a giant spider or a giant Stay Puft marshmellow man or something that’s not even giant at all. Well, whatever it is, I guarantee it’s not nearly as scary as the real scariest thing in the world. That’s long-term unemployment.

There are two labor markets nowadays. There’s the market for people who have been out of work for less than six months, and the market for people who have been out of work longer. The former is working pretty normally, and the latter is horribly dysfunctional.

[…]

But just how bad is it for the long-term unemployed? Ghayad ran a follow-up field experiment to find out. In a new working paper, he sent out 4800 fictitious resumes to 600 job openings, with 3600 of them for fake unemployed people. Among those 3600, he varied how long they’d been out of work, how often they’d switched jobs, and whether they had any industry experience. Everything else was kept constant. The mocked-up resumes were all male, all had randomly-selected (and racially ambiguous) names, and all had similar education backgrounds. The question was which of them would get callbacks.
It turns out long-term unemployment is much scarier than you could possibly imagine.

The results are equal parts unsurprising and terrifying. Employers prefer applicants who haven’t been out of work for very long, applicants who have industry experience, and applicants who haven’t moved between jobs that much. But how long you’ve been out of work trumps those other factors.

Some cuts to Social Security should put out that fire!

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