Unemployment chart of the day

By Felix Salmon
July 20, 2010
Derek Thompson:

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Chart of the day comes from Derek Thompson:

median longterm unemployment.png

The dynamics here are terrible, of course, because there are five unemployed people for every job opening. In that kind of context the only way that this chart is going to start reverting to the mean is if millions of Americans simply give up looking for work at all, and therefore stop counting as unemployed for the purposes of these statistics. The ranks of the demoralized are growing fast — but, clearly, not enough to stop the median period of unemployment rising inexorably past the 6-month mark.

All of which provides perfect context for the latest piece of claptrap to emanate from Ben Stein:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job.

How does Stein know this? Because, believe it or not, he’s been friends with these people for decades:

I get letters and e-mails from friends of decades standing asking for money every single day. Their common denominator is that they lacked prudence and lived in a dream world.

What kind of dream world would that be, Ben? One where they believed that they could time the market? Or maybe just one where they believed in the value of a decades-long friendship? Silly them.

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