Blog author: jcarter
by on Tuesday, June 10, 2014

long-term-unemploymentThe longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being. A recent Gallup survey found that about one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression.

Gallup finds that unemployed Americans are more than twice as likely to say they currently have or are being treated for depression than both those with full-time jobs and those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are currently 3.4 million people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. These individuals accounted for 34.6 percent of all the unemployed.

A 2011 study of the long-term unemployed published by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University also found that half of participants experienced shame and embarrassment that led them to isolate themselves from friends and associates. Among the long-term unemployed, 31.1 percent reported spending two hours or less with family or friends the previous day, versus 21.5 percent among short-term unemployed adults.

Long-term unemployment is not just a mental health crisis; it’s also a spiritual crisis. And the church is the only institution in American that can adequately respond. “Fortunately, the church is in a unique place to explain Christ’s restoration of work,” says Michael Jahr, “the meaning of suffering, and the hope and peace that result from putting our trust in him.”

Jahr offers three ways to assess how effectively your church or parachurch organization is ministering to the unemployed and underemployed within your congregation and community:

• Examine whether you are providing encouragement, dignity, and accountability, or merely engaging in what long-time urban ministry leader Bob Lupton describes as “toxic charity.”

• Look for ways to foster entrepreneurship to creatively meet human need, add value, and further the common good.

• Engage business people in finding solutions to joblessness and poverty.

“The church has the message and resources necessary to revive the broken spirit and restore the downtrodden,” says Jahr. “The question is whether the church will discern this opportunity and take action.”


  • Bill Hickman

    “Long-term unemployment is not just a mental health crisis; it’s also a spiritual crisis.”

    Agreed. Unemployment can be isolating and demoralizing.

    “And the church is the only institution in American that can adequately respond.”

    Only? Not sure how you arrive here. Couldn’t the government also help by providing paid jobs for the unemployed?

    • Marc Vander Maas

      Doing what? And if that were a solution, why doesn’t the government do it all the time?

      • Bill Hickman

        Doing any number of useful jobs. And I do think it’s a solution that the government should consider during extended periods of deep unemployment.

        • Marc Vander Maas

          And how do you envision said program helping those unemployed people to find actual productive work in the economy? There’s an awful lot of unemployed people out there for the government to “help.” Where’s the money going to come from to pay all of them? More deficit spending?

          • emt22

            Deficit spending will occur anyways through subsidies and social service payments; your solution is, in fact, no solution as well

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I don’t recall proposing a solution in the first place; I’m simply asking questions of Mr. Hickman about his proposal. I also said “more” deficit spending, which, of course, assumes that deficit spending is already occurring.

          • Bill Hickman

            Why isn’t government employment “actual productive work in the economy”?

            Yes, I think borrowing would be decent way to pay for it. A progressive tax would also be fine. We wouldn’t have to employ the entire 86 million referred to in your article. The majority of those are retired seniors, young students, stay at home parents, etc. They’re out of the labor force by choice. But this kind of program would be helpful for any others who left the labor force because of discouragement.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            Why isn’t government employment “actual productive work in the economy”?

            Work undertaken by the government is paid for with funds confiscated from the rest of the economy, where it would be put to more productive use. If government work was actually productive, we could just all work for the government. But that would never work, because the money required to pay for said work doesn’t just magically appear from nowhere. It is taken, via taxation, from the sector of the economy that actually creates wealth.

          • Bill Hickman

            What’s your definition of “productive”? My work can be necessary and useful even if my paycheck comes from the U.S. Treasury, can’t it? Also, how is my pay “confiscated from the rest of the economy” in a way that private sector pay isn’t? My government pay isn’t somehow segregated from the rest of the economy – it’s taxed just like private sector income, and I’ll spend it at the grocery store, restaurants, etc, just like any private sector employee.

            I think your view hinges on the word “confiscation”. You dislike taxation because it’s coercive, so you see government pay as a kind of ill-gotten gain, right?

          • Marc Vander Maas

            Certainly your work in the government can be necessary and useful – emphasis on the word “can.” (Surely you can agree that there are many tasks currently undertaken by the government that could be done just as well, if not better, by entities in the private sector.) I would never argue that government is unnecessary, and I readily acknowledge that taxation is a legitimate means for the government to use to fund those necessary functions that it must carry out. So no, I don’t see government pay as a kind of ill-gotten gain.

            So I think that to say that I “dislike taxation because it’s coercive” is at best a caricature of my position. I don’t “dislike” taxation. I also don’t particularly like it. (How many people truly enjoy looking at their pay stub and seeing how much goes missing from it every payday?) I recognize the necessity of paying taxes, but I also recognize that the rate of taxation affects my ability to do the things that I would like to do with the money that I earn, and that this general rule applies to any other individual or organization that pays taxes. And so as a general principle, I support the idea of limited government in part because a smaller government is a cheaper government, which leaves more money in the productive economy where it can be invested in various ways that generate wealth.

            So when I talk about the “productive” economy, I’m talking about that part of the economy where private individuals or businesses use their own resources, be it cash or talent or time or whatever, and invest those resources in a way that generates new wealth. The government doesn’t do that. The only way the government has any resources to begin with is via the confiscation of a percentage of the wealth of the population it governs. In other words, all government activities ride on the back of the private sector. The larger the government, the greater the burden on the private sector. It’s axiomatic.

            “Also, how is my pay “confiscated from the rest of the economy” in a way that private sector pay isn’t?” Again, as a government employee, the only way you can be paid is if the government confiscates a portion of the income of taxpayers. And remember, that confiscation comes under the (legitimate) threat of force. A business doesn’t have that option; they must generate enough income in the market to be able to pay the employees that they hire. It all depends on the generation of wealth. A larger, more expensive government necessarily reduces the amount of wealth that is available to be invested in that process.

            So your proposal to have the government hire people to do whatever qualifies as “useful jobs” will likely be counterproductive, in that it would involve either additional confiscation of funds from the private sector via taxation OR the acquisition of even more debt (on top of the $17 trillion plus we’ve already run up) in order to put people into likely low-paying temporary jobs that will ultimately do nothing to boost the sagging economy that was the impetus for the whole project in the first place. It’s the Great Depression all over again.

          • Bill Hickman

            “Surely you can agree that there are many tasks currently undertaken by the government that could be done just as well, if not better, by entities in the private sector”

            Are we talking about the federal government? I can’t think of any major ones. What tasks are you thinking of?

            “The only way the government has any resources to begin with is via the confiscation of a percentage of the wealth of the population it governs. In other words, all government activities ride on the back of the private sector. The larger the government, the greater the burden on the private sector. It’s axiomatic.”

            I don’t think it’s so simple. Yes, government gets its resources from non-government actors (e.g. taxation). But it’s not a one-way street – government action can also create private wealth that otherwise wouldn’t exist. For example, railroads, interstates, airways, waterways, the internet, have all given rise to new commerce, building an economic framework for private actors to gain great wealth. Another example: American copyright law has created massive amounts of wealth for Danielle Steel, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling. Copyright law does not exist in the ether, it’s a creature of government. We could go on – it’s clear that the government is not somehow separated from the rest of the “wealth-creating” economy. In a fundamental way, the government *creates* the economy, in which private actors become wealthy.

            So the mere fact that a program is paid for with taxpayer dollars doesn’t necessarily mean it acts as a parasite on the rest of the economy. It could very well boost it. Here’s where Keynes comes in – he came to believe (and I think I agree) that under certain *specific* circumstances, spending money to boost employment in the near term will actually be less costly to the economy than allowing a prolonged bout of deep unemployment. This makes some sense when you think about it – as Joe’s post states, unemployment destroys human capital.

        • sojohowitz

          I’ve got it! The government could pay people to dig holes and other people to fill them back up. But instead of shovels, why not use spoons?! More work, for more people. And the treasury could just print money, so there’d be no problem paying them all. Easy!

          • Bill Hickman

            You’re on the right track, but as long as we’re paying them, we might as well give them jobs that create something useful like roads, infrastructure, etc

  • Aging Hipster

    How about businesses try to hire Americans? It’s been documented that the long term unemployed face hideous discrimination. Meanwhile, “respectable” businesses are still doing this: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9248996/This_IT_worker_had_to_train_an_H_1B_replacement

  • wally

    Christ is just a made-up word, there is no such word, it has no meaning in English.

    • http://www.acton.org/ Elise Hilton

      Here’s a short list of “made up” words that “have no meaning in English:” cheetah, khaki, algebra, tea, zombie, macho, graffiti, kindergarten, coconut. Do you recognize these? Do you understand what they signify? Your statement is nonsensical.