Sleepwalking through America’s Unemployment Crisis

NEWPORT BEACH – It was relegated to the Q&A session, rather than featured prominently in the opening statement, at last week’s first-ever press conference of US Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke. It is an issue that too many in Washington, DC are willing to dismiss as “transitory,” despite visible evidence to the contrary. It is extremely vulnerable to high oil and food prices. And it undermines the operational assumptions that underpin the long-standing characterization of the US economy as vibrant and responsive.

The issue is the scope and composition of unemployment in America – a problem that is yet to be sufficiently recognized for its increasingly detrimental impact on the country’s social fabric, its economic potential, and its already-fragile fiscal position and debt dynamics.

Let us start with the facts:

·         At 8.8% almost three years after the onset of the global financial crisis, America’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly (and unusually) high;