Jobs & Bridges

Last Friday, after a visit with friends on Cape Cod, my wife and I crossed the Bourne Bridge, the southern span across the Cape Cod Canal. Looking up as we passed under the arch, I noticed a metal sign that was part of the structure: “Bourne Bridge: 1933-1935.”

Figure 1

The bridge was built by the Public Works Administration (PWA), the precursor to the WPA.

Where are the bridges built in 2009-2011? The city halls? The schools? The energy research labs? The music halls?

At the end of July, over two years after the official end of the recession, there were 13.9 million people unemployed (9.1%). The broadest measure of under-employment (U6), puts the rate at 16.1% (or 24.7 million). That includes people who stopped looking for work over four weeks before the monthly survey and are no longer counted as part of the work force (“marginally attached” and “discouraged” workers), plus those working part-time for economic reasons (data start at January, 1994):

Figure 2

What makes this recession so painful is not just how many are unemployed, but how long they remain unemployed. In January, 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) raised the reportable upper limit of the duration of unemployment from two years to five years. Before January, increasing reports of more than two years of unemployment were recorded as just two years. BLS does not report this measure separately, but its effect can be seen in the average number of weeks the unemployed spend out of work:

Figure 3

That’s our situation. What are we doing about it?


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