There has been a lot of positive movement in the statistics released by the Labor Department. But is it the whole story or even the truth? They leave out a large and growing number of Americans whose work status isn’t counted. Americans need to understand the difference between unemployed and underemployed.
Here’s the deal: There are currently around 8 million unemployed people in the United States, and about a quarter of those people have been out of a job for at least six months. However, there are many, many more who want to work, but can’t find a job and have stopped looking for one. They aren’t counted in that number. Now add the nearly 6 million underemployed workers forced to take a job below their skill level or work part-time to make ends meet.
When you add all of those together, you get a fuller picture of what is happening in our workforce. It is believed that more than 15 million Americans can’t find the jobs they want or need. That’s roughly as many people as the population of Los Angeles.
So is the answer to get a college degree? Not necessarily. A four-year degree has risks and benefits, with student loan debt rising over the last decade and many college graduates finding it difficult to get work in their chosen fields after graduation.
Still, college seems to improve your chances of financial security—starting with finding a job. Unemployment rates for people with only a high-school diploma are more than double the rates for people with a bachelor’s degree.
Many people will take advantage of vocational training, community college or apprenticeships, some of which are more focused on the specific skills needed by employers to fill the job openings available in this country. What is clear is that to be successful, everyone will need to engage in “lifelong learning,” to continue adapting to the rapidly changing workplace.
We all must get educated about what is really happening and commit to becoming a lifelong learner.
People need to take control of their careers, making sure they have the right skills for today’s marketplace as well as the future. Workers should refresh their skills throughout the course of their careers to ensure they are still relevant to the labor force. And companies that want to succeed will partner with organizations to create those training opportunities for their employees.