Sub-prime mortgages. Foreclosures. Bankruptcy. TARP.
All words that became part of our everyday conversation as the devastating financial crisis unfolded.
Now, unfortunately, another term will be getting a lot more use as the shakeout from this mess continues. In fact, until the economy started to add some jobs recently, the depth of this problem was masked by the overall downturn. I’m talking about long-term unemployment — a calamity that will be with us for quite some time.
There are many stats that could bring this problem home, but a few will suffice. A year ago, the long-term unemployed — those out of work for 27 weeks or longer — made up 24 percent of Georgia’s jobless. Today, it’s 47 percent and tomorrow the number will likely be higher.
More than 225,000 Georgians who are ready to work — and used to work — have not been able to find a job in more than six months. They’ve struck out — on the pavement and on the Web — for at least 189 days.
We know the short-term effects – families pinching pennies. But what’s going to happen long-term? Will it play out like foreclosures, which have reverberated far beyond the properties seized by lenders?
Yes, said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, who told me the number of long-term unemployed will rise to 50 percent of Georgia’s jobless in a month or two.
“The most enduring lesson over my 12 years as labor commissioner is that sometimes bad things happen to good people,” said Thurmond, who’s giving up the job to run for U.S. Senate. “A huge amount of productivity is down the drain.”
How will this change our society, Mr. Thurmond?
– Before this recession, he said, many of the long-term unemployed were minorities. But this time, since construction and manufacturing took a big hit, many are white men whose jobs may never return.
– Many male breadwinners are feeling frustrated and depressed, Thurmond said. At the same time, many women are under the gun, working to support their families and sometimes still playing the key role at home.
– Marriage may decline since it often comes after both young adults are employed.
– There is likely to be more intergenerational living. Not only among young adults moving back with parents, but it can go the other way when older workers lose jobs or lack sufficient retirement income.
That’s enough depression about the recession. How about a solution?
“Job training programs need to be redesigned to serve a new, male-dominated population,” Thurmond said. And the training will need to be compressed, given the length of time the long-term unemployed already have been without work.
Public officials, he said, including his office, the technical and two-year colleges and social service agencies, will need to work together in a more comprehensive way. So will political opponents.
“We need to get out of the political wars of left vs. right,” Thurmond said. “It can’t be solved that way. This is an atypical problem. … It’s not part of the American Dream where you have trained, educated folk who can’t find work.”
No it’s not. It’s more like the American nightmare.
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.