Questions & Answers

Q. What is Get America Working!?

A. Get America Working! is a non-profit national organization whose mission is to create millions of jobs through structural changes in the U.S. economy.

With more good jobs available, many of the country’s most significant social ills will be greatly diminished. We will see less crime and violence, fewer disengaged young people, less drug use, and a healthier population overall. Furthermore, the country will experience sustained, substantial, and faster economic growth; the environment will benefit greatly; and a larger tax base, combined with lessened dependency and social dysfunction, will allow tax rates to fall. Beyond the "officially unemployed" there are tens of millions of Americans -- the "unseen"/uncounted unemployed who are not participating in the labor force -- a wasted resource for our economy.

Q. Who are these "unseen"/uncounted unemployed?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics only counts as unemployed those who have "actively looked for work" in the past 4 weeks. In addition to the nearly 7 million "official unemployed" (BLS Employment Summary) there are:

  • the millions who would like to work but who don’t believe they can get a suitable job;
  • the many millions of persons over the age of 62 who have followed society’s expectations and incentives into retirement, but now, according to surveys, would choose to work if given a realistic opportunity;
  • the many millions of people with disabilities who, despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, remain excluded from the workforce (unemployment among working-age people with disabilities who are able to work now runs about 70 percent);
  • the millions of youth who are not in the labor market because they don’t see any meaningful opportunities for themselves;
  • the millions of discouraged African-Americans, Hispanics, recent immigrants and others for whom employment doors have not opened readily—despite civil rights laws and affirmative action programs;
  • discouraged and logistically challenged workers and those living in geographic pockets of the country where shrinking industry has resulted in a labor surplus;
  • those who would like part-time jobs but cannot get them (such as parents of young children); and
  • seasonal and part-time workers who want full-time jobs.

These are all people who would be more independent and prosperous—and generally far happier and healthier—if they were working.

We know that for many reasons not all unemployed people in this country want to work, and not all of them can work. Many work at unpaid jobs (e.g., they are taking care of children, sick spouses, elders, or other family members, or they are full-time students or full-time homemakers). We also know that some of the categories above overlap. And, in some cases precise numbers are very difficult to obtain. Despite the difficulty in obtaining precise numbers for each of these sub-groups, we believe that a reasonable estimate of the total number of those Americans who probably could and ultimately would like paid work but are not working at all or are not fully working lies between 50 and 60 million (calculated as full time equivalents), or one-third of the civilian non-institutional population (CNIP)*, the BLS term for the potential workforce, estimated at almost 255 million Americans.

*  BLS uses Census Bureau data to calculate the size of the civilian non-institutional population by subtracting those who are: under the age of 16; in the active-duty armed forces; in school; or institutionalized (i.e., in prison, hospitalized).

Q. If all these people are not working, why don't we hear more about them?

A. First, they aren’t counted in the official numbers. Second, people who do not believe they have a chance of getting a job typically accept their situation as inevitable, become resigned, and stop looking for gainful employment. Because people without jobs are dependent and without power—and keenly aware of that circumstance—they are unlikely to speak up for their own interests. Third, society has told the "non-employed" not to expect to work and has reinforced this message with institutionalized subsidies such as welfare and food stamps. And finally, the media typically uncritically accepts the prevailing framework and repeats the common statistics and supporting definitions in story after story, thereby reinforcing the "inevitability" of the situation in which so many people are not considered to be potential workers.

Get America Working!’s goal is to help Americans see that the only way the country can grow strongly is not only to restore the "officially unemployed" to work, but also to allow the large portion of the population that has consistently been shut out of the job market to enter it. In short, the country needs to adopt a new approach to thinking about the population’s employability. We must devise a plan that will enable us to reach our national potential.
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