We all know there are three important things about real estate: location, location, location. That double repetition, which the late and great word sleuth William Safire traced back to a 1926 Chicago Tribune classified ad, is still with us because it is succinct and true.

You can think about the economic and political woes of the Western world today in the same way. It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.

But over the past two weeks the political battles over government debt in Washington and Frankfurt, the street battles in Britain, and the volatility of markets everywhere have obscured that reality. The talk instead has been about share prices, credit ratings, police tactics and political dysfunction.

That’s why Pinched, a book about unemployment published this week by the American journalist Don Peck is so timely and important. Mr. Peck’s central message is that all recessions are not the same. Prolonged slowdowns, like the one the Western world is experiencing today, make their mark not only through the pain they cause while we are in the middle of them. They have a permanent, and largely malignant, impact.

As Mr. Peck argues: “When jobs are scarce, incomes flat, and debts heavy for protracted periods, people, communities and even whole generations can be left permanently scarred.”