The official unemployment rate of the US is at the lowest it has been since 2000 at 3.9%. For the black and Hispanic population, unemployment hovers at around 6.8%, still lower than years past. These numbers seem impressive at first glance and have been steadily climbing since the early 2000’s but cannot be accredited to the government’s efforts much as current President Trump would like to claim.
Most Americans do not work a full-time job—they work several. Salaried jobs are no longer the norm for working adults. Rather than being unemployed, most adults work two or more jobs. Working multiple part-time jobs pulls people from the unemployment population, even if it means they are under-employed. Adults aged 22-40 are more likely to be college educated and working jobs they are far overqualified for than previous generations. Young adults in college and just out of college often are expected to work for free at internships. These internships are considered employment but exploit the workers’ time and money. Only students with means are able to travel and support themselves through internships. Most internships do not pay and few hire interns afterward. Many interns work part-time jobs in addition to working twelve or more hours a day at their internships. Then after multiple internships, young adults often cannot find work in their field and end up working multiple part-time jobs to cover their student debt.
Working part-time jobs usually means disqualifications from benefits and advancement opportunities. However, many establishments ONLY hire part-time or seasonal employees to avoid providing benefits, overtime, and even lunch breaks. Some establishments get around having permanent employees by hiring through temp agencies and never fully hiring their own employees. Having multiple low paying jobs is not a choice, but a necessity for most.
Adults who work part-time due to disability or other circumstances are considered “employed” by the US government, despite the fact that their pay cannot cover rent in most US cities. Older citizens are often neglected by unemployment rates, despite needing work later and later in life. People who are not actively seeking a job, but do not have one can be considered employed by the US government. How? These people have given up looking for work, no longer qualify for unemployment, and/or rely on family for monetary support. After 26 weeks, in most states, unemployment benefits end. This is an expectation that a job will be found in that time frame. When a job is not found, the unemployed person is no longer considered “unemployed” by the state. People looking to rejoin the workforce are having more and more difficult time finding work they are qualified for because cheap labor is readily available. Mothers have a difficult time returning to work after their children have grown because the job market moves quickly and reaches for the first available, cheapest worker. There are no laws set in place to protect against such discrimination. The employer is protected but not the potential employee.
If everyone that is currently part of the jobless “employed” were to join the workforce, 3.3 million workers would be added nationwide. The essential problem is not lack of workers or jobs—it is lack of protection for workers. Companies are skirting the edges of laws to avoid paying their employees a fair wage. For every job, twenty-five over-qualified people apply, but the least qualified person may be hired. The US government encourages these injustices by not protecting employees. Yes, unemployment is low, but having jobs is not the same as being gainfully employed.