Discouraged, marginally attached workers unite!

As one of the many unemployed people across the country, and as someone who works with words for a living, I find it funny that the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics can come up with many ways to describe people looking for a job.

I've heard of "underemployed," the term for people, like me, who don't have a full-time job but have a part-time job (or two or more) while still looking for full-time work.

Now the BLS, which puts out state-by-state unemployment figures each month, has a subclass of the unemployed: "discouraged workers" and workers "marginally attached" to the labor force.

These terms were probably around before this recession started, but they still give give the unemployed something to look forward to when the BLS announces new numbers each month.

These terms are also worth keeping in mind when the unemployment figures do come out, because these people aren't considered part of the "unemployed," meaning that the number of people out of work is higher than you might think.

People "marginally attached to the labor force" wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job within the past year. They're not counted as unemployed because they hadn't actively searched for work in the past four weeks.

Their numbers increased in the first quarter of 2009, to 2.1 million. From a year ago, the "marginally attached" grew by 35%, compared with a 68% jump in unemployed people by 5.5 million to 13.5 million people in the first quarter of this year.

Discouraged workers rose 717,000 in the first quarter of 2009, a 70% increase from the same quarter last year. These are people who aren't looking for work because they believe that there are no jobs available for them.

I don't want to make it sound like these two groups make up a huge portion of the population, but they are around us. Both groups account for 2.6% of the 81.3 million people not in the labor force during the first quarter of 2009, according to BLS figures.

Many such people don't want a job because they're retired, attending to family responsibilities, going to school, or are too ill or disabled to work. Others have family responsibilities or transportation problems.

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