Unemployment in the U.S.: The Story Inside the Recent Headlines

The daily news cycle in the United States consistently discusses the national unemployment rate. In early May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported that the unemployment rate nationwide declined to 4.4 percent, the lowest level in almost a decade and a milestone in the long road back from the Great Recession. The rate was 4.9 percent a year ago. So this is all good…right?!
The answer is: “It Depends.”
Take a closer look and the unemployment picture gets fuzzy. While many groups have seen their employment situation improve, several others including people with disabilities and older workers have seen minimal or no growth. These population-specific statistics are often lost in the shuffle.
According to Fortune, the number of people with disabilities participating in the U.S. workforce decreased from 1980 and 2015. However, the participation rate for these workers fell from 39.3 percent in 2009 to 34.5 percent in 2015. Workers with disabilities still have not seen pre-recession employment levels because they are up against employers who see a disabled person as too difficult, too expensive and likely to result in lower productivity rather than seeing all of the benefits that they can bring to an organization.
Older workers are also experiencing minimal job growth. Americans are living longer and prefer to remain active in the workplace, either because they enjoy it or because that they have no other options. The challenge is that many older workers looking for work say they cannot find a job. They find that they either lack the skills needed or employers are looking for someone younger. The unemployment rate for workers age 65 and over was 3.7 percent last month. Unfortunately, that number may rise now that Congress overturned a rule on May 14th designed to help states give more workers access to retirement savings plans.
It is exactly these “forgotten” and “overlooked” groups that Goodwill® continues to help every day through programs like skills assessments, training and job search assistance, and other community-specific supports. Goodwill’s expertise in workforce development and its strong linkages with local businesses continue to provide hope and guidance for both the newly unemployed and those who continue to struggle to find work.