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Economy

Meet the Workers That the Free Market Forgot

The poor economy has hit a few demographics especially hard, including people of color, young people and non-college grads.

With the Local Jobs for America Act putting the possibility of direct government hiring back on the table, we must make sure any hiring programs actually reach the communities that need help most. In this recession, there are four distinct groups of people that have been hit the hardest:

Non-College Graduates. Adults with only a high school diploma have more than twice the unemployment rate (10.8 percent) of adults with a bachelor's degree (4.7 percent).

With so many skilled workers out of work, why would companies spend additional money hiring and training unskilled workers? Unfortunately though, if no one steps up to invest in young workers, we will create an entire generation of people with no skills to thrive in the 21st century economy

Young and Old. Unemployment among workers between the ages of 20-24 is at almost 15 percent.

But we can’t forget about older workers, either. We tend to be complacent because workers over 55 are in the least likely demographic to lose their jobs. However, when they do become unemployed, people over 55 have the hardest time finding new work than those in any other age demographic.

With so many skilled workers out of work, why would companies spend additional money hiring and training unskilled workers? They simply won't spend money training new workers. Unfortunately, if no one steps up to invest in young workers, we will create an entire generation of people with no skills to thrive in the 21st century economy.

People of Color. African-American males have an unemployment rate of 19% while white males have an unemployment rate of only 9%. Equally as troubling, African Americans workers with a bachelor's degree are twice as likely to be unemployed as white workers without a bachelor's degree.

Does the free market have any interest in fixing the problems of the wage and opportunity gap between African Americans and whites? No, the market has an interest in intensifying the gap because it lowers workers' wages overall.

Long-Term Unemployed. More than 6.5 million workers have been unemployed for longer than six months — nearly 44% of all unemployed workers. Employers are hesitant to hire workers who are out of work for more than six months because they lose skills and are seen as undesirable.

Does the free market have any interest in helping out the long term unemployed? No, the market hires only those workers that it views as the most qualified and desirable.

When we can’t rely on private employers to achieve the public interest, that’s precisely when our government should step up. This is why the Local Jobs for America Act and direct government hiring is so important. The Local Jobs for America Act has provisions that allow money to flow to communities that have been particularly hard hit by the jobs crisis. Additionally, the Local Jobs for America Acthas provisions to provide on-the-site training for unskilled workers.

Direct government hiring like the Local Jobs for America Act can correct the problems of the labor market that the free market won't. Click here to tell your member of Congress to sponsor the Local Jobs for America Act.

Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who writes for Campaign for America's Future. He previously worked for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE).
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