Acton Institute Powerblog

Unemployment as Economic-Spiritual Indicator — May 2016 Report

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UnemploymentSeries Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).

Overview: While most of the metrics were positive, few jobs were added and a large number of Americans dropped out of the labor for, making this one of the worst jobs report in years.

Number of new jobs added (): 38,000

Unemployment rate (+): 4.7 percent

Total number unemployed (NC): 7.4 million.

Employment-population ratio (NC): 59.7 percent.

Change by worker groups: adult men (+), adult women (+), teenagers (NC), blacks (NC), whites (+), Asians (NC), and Hispanics (+).

Long-term unemployed (+): 1.9 million and accounted for 25.1 percent of the unemployed.

Civilian labor force participation rate (-): 62.6 percent.

Persons employed part time for economic reasons (-): 6.4 million.

Discouraged workers (+): 538,000.


Unemployment: According to the federal government, to be unemployed a person must (a) be jobless, (b) looking for a job, and (c) available for work.People are considered employed if they have a job (whether temporary, part-time, etc.). People who are neither employed nor unemployed are considered to be not in the labor force.

Unemployment rate: Calculated by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all individuals currently in the labor force.

Total number unemployed: number of people unemployed in America in the previous month.

Employment-population ratio: measures the proportion of the country’s working-age population (ages 16 to 64) that is employed. This number includes people that have stopped looking for work.

Change by worker groups: whether the number of unemployed in that group increased or decreased.

Long-term unemployed: People who have been unemployed for 12 months or longer.

Civilian labor force participation rate: share of the population 16 years and older working or seeking work.

Persons employed part time for economic reasons: individuals who would have preferred full-time employment but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

Discouraged workers: unemployed individuals who have stopped looking for work for one of four reasons:

1. They believe no job is available to them in their line of work or area.
2. They had previously been unable to find work.
3. They lack the necessary schooling, training, skills, or experience.
4. Employers think they are too young or too old, or they face some other type of discrimination.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Steve Vinzinski

    One bad one in 60 months is not a failure.If this trend continues three or four months in a row the matter becomes dangerous.I have a point I just wonder if some people turn down jobs with out cause,I suffer from multiple disabilities and have a steady stream of offers.I have many friends nearing seventy who agree they have a steady stream of employment situations.

    • Well but the total number of employed has decreased dramatically since the recession. Declining unemployment has only meant huge numbers of discouraged workers. Also, the data for Jan – April were as bad as May but seasonal adjustments hid that from all but those of us who pay attention to how the numbers are massaged.

      • Steve Vinzinski

        Thank you for the reply.Over the past almost thirty years I have spent about three total years in various hospitals in many different states.I have incurred two major Mi’s,left sided CVA,ten Caths,two PTCA’s and a nine graft by-pass.Double chamber pacemaker and many Tia’s.Cancer of the kidney with removal.Bone CA with removal,CA of the face with surgery.Major depression and bi-polar with shock therapy.Hip replacement and take over twenty prescriptions a day with yearly out of pocket nearing $50,000.00 a year.But never did I fail to find work in the worst times.It could be pumping gas at a Hess station to working in a deli.I hear so many people complaining and tell them where there is work they do not want to hear the same.Eighty per cent of my my work was pro-bono and actually cost me money.I just went out no matter how much pain and worked.I hope you have a nice week.