The Scary Thing About Being Long-Term Unemployed: Job-Training Doesn't Work

Photo: St. Louis Fed

One of the most depressing jobless charts is the one that shows the number of folks unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.There’s not much prospect of this number coming down sharply, in large part because these (non-)workers are likely to have the largest skills mismatch with potential employers.

And unless the housing boom comes back in a gigantic way, and brings all the attendant industries along with it, this problem will likely remain.


Because job training programs basically don’t work, except in rare, specific situations.

That’s the subject of a long, worth-reading NYT piece Peter S. Goodman

It was February 2009, and the city work force centre in Downtown Brooklyn was jammed with hundreds of people hungry for paychecks. His caseworker urged him to take advantage of classes financed by the federal government, which had increased money for job training. Upgrade your skills, she counseled. Then she could arrange job interviews.

For six weeks, Mr. Valle, 49, absorbed instruction in spreadsheets and word processing. He tinkered with his résumé. But the interviews his caseworker eventually arranged were for low-wage jobs, and they were mobbed by desperate applicants. More than a year later, Mr. Valle remains among the record 6.8 million Americans who have been officially jobless for six months or longer. He recently applied for welfare benefits.

Can job training ever work? Yes, in specific situations where the training program acts almost likely a subsidy to a specific regional employer, looking for a narrow skill, such as a very specific kind of computer or technical knowledge.

But by and large, just learning more basic knowledge skills (spreadsheets, word processing, etc.) isn’t going to get anyone very far.

Read the whole thing >

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