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Unemployment and NILFs

Rise of NILF
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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

The final report for 2022 from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics was positive for the country and for the Biden administration. They estimated that 159 million Americans were employed in December, which was an increase of 717,000 from the previous month.

When we were talking about these good numbers on radio, I also added that the low unemployment numbers don’t include the millions of workers who have dropped out of the labor force. When I say millions, I am not exaggerating. As I have mentioned in a previous commentary, over 7 million men of “prime working age” (between 25 and 54) are not working nor are they looking for work.

These men are designated as NILFs (not in labor force). In fact, for every unemployed prime-age American man looking for a job, there are over four NILFs. And it’s not because there are no jobs. There are 11 million unfilled jobs. That works out to nearly two open jobs for every unemployed man and woman in the US.

The common explanation for this phenomenon is that the unfilled jobs are high-skill jobs involving technical training. But major sectors of the economy are now open to applicants without any great skills, other than the “skill” to show up on time and be willing to learn and to work.

Part of the problem is policy. If you pay people not to work, we learned from the COVID benefits that people won’t work. Even if you stop paying people not to work, many of them still do not go back to work. This became a “test-drive” for universal basic income.

Sadly, some of our policies have inadvertently disincentivized work. It is time to reinvigorate the biblical idea of a work ethic.viewpoints new web version

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