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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Human Suffering That Even Bad Jobs Numbers Hide from Us

Local News

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A Brandon Motor Lodge displays a “Help Wanted” sign in Brandon, Fla., June 1, 2021. (Octavio Jones/Reuters) We don’t see the struggles of those who aren’t returning to work. And government benefits are no substitute for concern that they can live meaningful lives.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment data for the month of May, revealing how anemic the path to personal and economic recovery continues to be for so many. Following the abysmal report for April, which showed that nonfarm payroll numbers for the U.S. as a whole had been just 266,000 — well below the estimate of 1 million — the new number for May also came in below estimates, at 559,000 nonfarm payrolls. Economists had predicted around 675,000 new jobs.

As we process the consistent streak of disappointing numbers, we must remember that each number represents the life of someone who is struggling. On the positive side, there are 559,000 people who have reentered the workforce. Yet on the other hand, there are millions of people who are being robbed of the opportunity to experience the purpose, meaning, and belonging that one derives from being engaged in work.

To be clear, lower-than-expected numbers are not due to a lack of available jobs. There were 8.1 million open positions across the country at the end of March. And the dismal numbers were not due to a lack of people who need work. In May, there were 15.4 million claims for some form of unemployment assistance. (That number includes some duplicates, but the figure is still staggering.) The bottom line is that our country is still 10.8 million jobs short of where we would be if the pandemic and lockdowns had not occurred. In addition, 5.3 million people are working part-time but wanting full-time work.

Plenty of finger-pointing in response to this news continues apace. Are these poor numbers due to expansive unemployment benefits and cash payments that have encouraged people to stay out of work? Lack of child-care options that have kept moms, forced to teach their kids at home,

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