Can You Count the Unemployed? an NJFAC Quiz


1. Jack was laid off after 17 years as a mechanic when his plant was relocated in Mexico. Unable to find a comparable job, Jack is working at Walmart at a fraction of his previous wage.

Answer: Jack is a casualty of unemployment, but he is counted as employed, despite his downgrading.

2. Jill wants to work but stopped looking for a job because she can’t afford child care for her daughter.

Answer: Once Jill stops looking for work she disappears from official statistics. She is out of the labor force, not counted as unemployed.

3. Jerry, 18 years old, no longer attends school and has no job. He would like to be able to make some money, but unemployment is rampant, and job openings for teenagers are practically nil in the urban ghetto where Jerry lives-especially for those who have never held a job. After repeated but unsuccessful attempts to get a job, Jerry stopped looking for work and now hangs out with friends who are in the same boat.

Answer: Since Jerry is no longer looking for work, he isn’t counted as unemployed.

4. John, 62, lost his job last year. He continued to look for work long after exhausting his meager unemployment benefits. Then, as he watched his savings melt away, he despaired of finding another job because of illegal-but rampant-age discrimination. So he threw in the towel and now receives permanently reduced Social Security (early) retirement benefits.

Answer: John is not counted as unemployed. He is no longer looking for work, hence out of the labor force.

5. Jane, a single mother, works full time, year round, at a minimum wage job that pays thousands of dollars less than what the government says is needed to support her and her two young children above the poverty level. She wonders if she will ever get a real job-one that pays a living wage.

Answer: Jane is treated as employed even though a job that pays so little is a form of underemployment.

6. Mary can’t find a full-time job as a college teacher. She is forced to take a part-time position as an adjunct at a local college.

Answer: Mary is counted as employed even though she is forced to work part-time.

I’ve tried everything I can think of to get work. But there isn’t any. Nobody’s hiring. –56- year-old laid-off worker, Augusta, GA

… I’ve been able to maintain perfect credit through 15 months of unemployment. But I’m running out of savings, and now I’m waking up in the middle of the night worrying.
–50-year-old educational specialist let go in May 2001, after receiving a letter from a mortgage company telling him he was six months late in
paying real estate taxes on his house

You worry about money. You worry about what’s going to happen in the future. And it depresses you-emotionally, physically, all sorts of ways. You feel as though you’ve done something wrong.
–Technical writer laid off from General Dynamics,
Middleboro, MA, after being re-employed

There are not a whole lot of non-entry-level positions available. The only jobs in the paper are telemarketing and McDonald’s. Basically, I’m living in my mom’s basement right now and my savings are about gone.
–44-year-old travel agency worker, unemployed after a year
*Source: New York Times, October 29, 2002, Section G1