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Are the Long-Term Unemployed Being Too Picky?

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Columbia University, and New York University has an intervention-style message for the long-term unemployed: Stop being so damn picky, will you?

The economists who authored the report seem to think the long-term unemployed are not unlike the obnoxious people on reality teevee dating shows who maintain a very high opinion of themselves and can't find a life partner because no one is ever perfect enough for them. As the Washington Post reports:

Here's one explanation for our stubbornly high unemployment rate: A construction worker gets laid off and spends months looking for more construction work, rather than readjust his expectations and acquire new skills to find work in, say, the health-care industry, which has experienced steady growth throughout the recession. It's what economists describe as as a "mismatch" between job openings and those seeking unemployment, and some argue that it's responsible for why so many are unemployed. If those seeking work realigned their expectations, got more training, or were simply willing and able to move to a different state for work, then we could bring down unemployment to more reasonable levels.

See? If you've been out of work for a long time, it's all your fault. If you would simply lower realign your expectations and pick up and move across the country in hopes of being selected for a lower-paying job you absolutely hate, then everything would finally work out for you and we could get our economy back on track. Stop "dating" all the wrong "mismatches" and go to work in healthcare already!

Sure, there always will be obnoxious job seekers who need to "realign" their career expectations to be more realistic, but the paper's authors seems to ignore two main components of any successful career: aptitude and desire. A job seeker can follow the money by retraining for a career in healthcare where she'll be competing against applicants with years of experience, but what if her skills and personal happiness still lie in the type of job she had before the Great Recession? Yeah. Then what? Then no one is happy, that's what.

And telling the long-term unemployed to pick up and move across the country in hopes of finding work seems to ignore everyday financial realities in our shaky economy, but who am I to say? I'm not an economist, and this isn't a severely under-rated 1980s Albert Brooks movie. When I read articles like these, however, I'm glad I'm not an economist because I prefer living in the reality-based, coupon-clipping community where there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to the long-term unemployment problem that, if you believe this article, is primarily the fault of the overly-picky, long-term unemployed. Come on back to me, 22. Come on back!

Following our aptitudes and desires is always the best bet in the long run. Maybe it requires changing careers, or maybe not. We're all different. But we have one thing in common. When we look in the mirror, we should see pride, we should see power, and we should see a bad-ass mother who won't take no crap off of nobody. Especially from economists with unrealistic, mismatched theories. Cool runnings.


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