6
UNEMPLOYMENT IN
THE UNITED STATES

Charles C. Killingsworth

The people of the United States produced more, earned more, and spent more in 1964 than in any other year in their history. By almost any measure, 1964 was a year of record prosperity. Yet unemployment averaged around 5 per cent of the labor force as it had in each of the past seven years. A dozen years ago, most U.S. economists would have defined full employment to mean unemployment of not more than 3 per cent, and that is, in fact, the rate that we achieved for an extended period early in the 1950's. Most of the other highly industrialized nations of the world today have rates of unemployment substantially lower than those that have prevailed in the United States in recent years.

Exact comparisons are difficult to make, of course, because statistical methods vary from country to country. In the United States, for example, the unemployed include those temporarily laid off from regular jobs as well as the long-term unemployed, teenagers seeking their first jobs, those seeking part-time employment, and people who are moving from one job to another. It also can be noted that not everyone who is unemployed is necessarily needy. Most short-term unemployment is covered by unemployment insurance and often, while one member of a family is unemployed, another may be working. But even so, hardly any responsible person in this country believes that we should accept a 5 per cent unemployment rate as a satisfactory state of affairs. An average rate which is that high means much higher rates for certain disadvantaged groups in our society. In recent years, young workers, old workers, low-skilled and poorly educated workers, and Negroes have had unemployment rates considerably higher than the average.

-82-

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