We Used to Call It Underemployment

It’s sad when one has to keep turning to Wikipedia:

In one usage, underemployment describes the employment workers with high skill levels in low-wage jobs that do not require such abilities. For example, someone with a college degree may be tending bar or driving a cab or being a cashier. Alternatively, a skilled machinist may be working at a fast-food outlet. This may result from the existence of unemployment, which makes workers with bills to pay (and responsibilities) take almost any jobs available, even if they do not use their full talents.

Which is what I thought about as I read this story. Andrew Samwick reads this story and writes:

It’s hard to know if the unemployment rate is really “missing” them in measuring the strength of the labor market.

Dr. Samwick has been suggesting that at least some of the decline in the labor force participation rate is due to voluntary forces, while I have been emphasizing the alleged continued weakness in labor markets due to poor aggregate demand management.

Ezra Klein first noted:

It’s always hard to discern if the anecdotes and quotes chosen for these articles accurately reflect the trends

Alas, he continues:

The basic outline is that many workers from blue or gray collar jobs who lost their positions in layoffs and bankruptcies are finding it nearly impossible to find subsequent positions offering the same level of dignity and challenge.

Of course, Jonah Goldberg is quick to agree. I guess it would not occur to Mr. Goldberg that we should be expecting more from our labor market. After all, expecting more would be to suggest that George W. Bush’s economic policies are not as wonderful as Mr. Goldberg and his cronies are paid to portray.

Update: Today must be my day for finding rightwing commentary that almost makes sense so check out what Megan McArdle offers over Instapundit.