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What the Jobs Numbers Don’t Tell Us—and Why It Matters

Official unemployment rates may be low, but they don’t reflect the number of people out of the workforce, underemployed or lacking the skills to get good jobs. “We need to disaggregate these numbers,”  LISC CEO Maurice Jones said in a front page article in The Guardian newspaper. By 2025, the US will have 16 million ‘middle skill’ positions in need of workers, Jones explained, noting “[t]hat’s not going to happen organically.” Training and connections to opportunity are imperative to lift everyone’s boat.

The excerpt below is from:
Donald Trump's jobs promise just about holding up but trouble may lie ahead
by Dominic Rushe, The Guardian

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! That was Donald Trump’s promise to America when he was elected president last November. So as we approach the end of Trump’s first year in office, how has the job market done?

On the surface the answer seems to be not badly, if not markedly different from how it was performing at the end of the Obama administration. But some economists and employment experts warn that below the surface structural issues – ones that helped propel Trump into office – remain and unless they are addressed they could cause problems for the president, the US and the rest of the world.

In the run-up to Christmas Maurice Jones, chief executive of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a nonprofit that works in struggling communities, was in Houston, one of the US’s most economically vibrant cities.

At 4.7% the city’s unemployment rate is slightly above the nation’s (now 4.1%) but in the areas where LISC works the rate can be 10% to 20% or higher. In other areas of the city there are huge numbers of jobs vacant.

“We need to disaggregate these numbers,” said Jones, who blames skill shortages for much of the disparity. “On any given day there are 10,000 unfilled vacancies in the Houston medical centers. But if you believe the unemployment numbers, there’s no problem with the jobs market at all.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics too shows unemployment rates still vary widely by race and age. White unemployment is just 3.6%, for African Americans it is 7.3% and teens are unemployed at a rate of 15.9%. At the local level the geographic picture can be even starker. And, as Jones points out, large numbers of people, those who have fallen off the grid, out of the workforce or are undocumented, don’t make the headline unemployment rate.

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