Sunday, October 14

For many, the road to a job is long, winding

For many, the road to a job is long, winding

Sean Gardner for NBC News

Indelethio Nebeker spent five months chasing one job, only to be disappointed. He works odd jobs intermittently while trying to get the career he wants on track.

In 2008, Marcey Carver lost her job in the finance department of a Vermont car parts maker that closed its doors after the auto industry went into freefall.

With a degree in molecular biology, an MBA and a master's in accounting, Carver, 58, spent the next year and a half working temporary jobs, landing full-time work in October 2009 as finance director for a small non-profit. After 11 months, she was laid off again.

Since then she’s had temporary jobs, but her search for full-time work has run into a major roadblock.

“You can’t get the job you’re qualified for," she said. “But you can’t get a job you’re overqualified for because they think you’re going to quit as soon as you find something else.”

Carver doubts she'll ever land full-time work and now focuses on just making enough money to pay the bills.

Millions of other Americans have come to the same conclusion as the worst economic recovery since World War II has left them sidelined and unable to replace the job they lost to the Great Recession.

Many have given up altogether, left behind by the economy and left out of the government’s employment statistics. In fact, so many people have given up looking for work that the official jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent last month from 8.3 percent, even though the economy is not adding nearly enough jobs to absorb the growth in working-age population.

With the presidential election just weeks away, President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney squared off Wednesday night in the first of three campaign debates. The discussion focused heavily on which candidate has the better plan to spur the economy and create jobs more quickly.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will report September employment data and is expected to show another month of modest job growth that will leave the unemployment rate little changed.

Nobody knows exactly how many people have given up looking and left the workforce. The BLS monthly household survey has a relatively large margin of error, and the pool of "discouraged workers" is not static – people move in and out of the category from one month to the next.

But the pool is growing. Since last August, the official count of people who have left the work force but still want a job has risen by a half-million, to just over 7 million. That doesn't include the roughly 8 million "underemployed" people with part-time jobs who want full-time work, double the number when the 2007 recession began.

Most of the 86 million people outside the government's official labor force count say they don't want a job. Of the six million who do, here are the reasons they're not included in the monthly tally. (2011 data)

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