When you hear about the unemployment rate going down, you are led to assume that’s good news. In fact, we have always been taught that a low unemployment rate means the job market – and economy – are strong.
While that is typically and usually true, there are exceptions to that. We are currently in a jobs climate where a falling unemployment rate might be a bad thing in some ways. In fact, some experts are fearful for the future of the U.S. economy because of the dropping unemployment numbers. Why is that? What is causing this fear? How can a low unemployment rate be a bad thing?
What is Unemployment?
Before we can discuss what the latest unemployment numbers mean and how it could be a negative thing for the future of the economy, let’s define what unemployment actually is.
According to the U.S. government, the official unemployment rate is strictly defined as the percentage of workers who are unemployed and actively looking for a job. In other words, it’s the number of Americans who are searching for work and currently don’t have a place paying them for their services.
Recently, the American unemployment rate skyrocketed to heights that hadn’t been seen in decades. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions upon millions of Americans lost their jobs seemingly overnight. In just a matter of weeks, 16.8 million people filed for unemployment due to shelter-at-home orders.
At the height of the virus, more than 20.5 million would-be workers were laid off. That means the unemployment rate was at 14.7%, which surpassed the 10% mark seen in the depths of the financial crisis.
Current Unemployment Numbers
According to the most recent Labor Department figures, the unemployment rate has been reduced to 5.1% from 5.2%. That’s down from around 15% only a few months ago. Those appear to be positive figures.
While any growth is welcome, some are concerned that the figures are insufficient. Economists anticipate that companies recently added 485,000 jobs to their payrolls, an increase over August but not as large as the monthly gains seen earlier in the summer.
But the numbers, while moving in the right direction, have some analysts worried for other reasons.
What Do They Mean?
As previously stated, the official unemployment rate published by the Labor Department only includes jobless persons who are not working nor actively seeking for work. It is important to note that millions of people stopped working and also stopped hunting for jobs when the coronavirus ravaged the economy in early 2020.
These people are left out of the jobs reports from the Labor Department. In many ways, they have given up the hunt for a job that suits them. That is why some analysts and experts are actually worried about the newest job numbers because it means that millions of people are throwing in the towel and no longer looking for employment. That is a dangerous, scary thought and could prove troublesome in the months and years ahead.