What do you want first, the bad news or the even worse news?
The bad news is the disappointing June unemployment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The worse news is that we are failing to train tomorrow’s labor force for employment in a world of accelerating competition.
Jobs, first. The headline unemployment number remains at 8.2 percent, although President Barack Obama cited the 84,000 new private sector jobs last month as “a step in the right direction.” He had the grace to add: “But we can’t be satisfied.” He can say that again. That 8.2 percent only measures people who have actively applied for a job in the last four weeks by going to an interview or filling out an application. It is not a relevant measure. People who have been unemployed for many months don’t go through the business of applying for a job every four weeks.
Given that the median period of unemployment is now in the range of five months, vast numbers who want to work are just not counted. If we include, as we should, people who have applied for a job in the last 12 months, and those employed part time who want full-time work, the real unemployment number is closer to 15 percent.
Here now is the worse news: America is adding to the length of unemployment lines in the future by falling behind today in skill areas where global competition has become so intense.
This next section is especially disconcerting, given the level of debt young Americans take on for their education (emphasis mine):
A stunning illustration of how far America has started to lag in training its youth is that we are only one of three countries in the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where the youngsters are not better qualified than their fathers and mothers. Men and women ages 55 to 64 have the same or better education than the 25-to-34 generation. The younger workers in most other OECD countries are much better educated than those nearing retirement.
This is an astonishing commentary on the limits of, and the deterioration of, America’s system of public education. The National Academies warned years ago that the United States would continue to lose ground to foreign economic rivals unless the quality of its science education improved.
“Shut up!” explained the academics.