Unemployment DOESN’T Tell The FULL Economic Story – Underemployment Does

If you reside in a democratic country, chances are you are subject to elections filled with candidates who spew nothing but positive half-truths, along with hyperbolic negativity about their candidates positions. If there is ONE topic that is SURE to elicit both kinds of BS, it’s when politicians begin rambling on about the economy and start to correlate unemployment numbers as a TRUE reflection of society either being on a GLORIOUS up swing or a massively depressing spiral. The problem with this thinking is that the unemployment rate is studied so acutely, it leaves no room to talk about a fast-growing yet largely ignored sector of our society: The Working Poor.

The quick and easy association we make about people living in poverty is joblessness, but in countries like Canada, America, Italy, Spain & Ireland, a large part of the people in poverty actually ARE employed, and therefore count towards the employment rate. This means when members of a poverty-stricken household get a minimum wage job at Burger King, the party in office can boast and brag that they have cut the unemployment rate [which is technically true], but the REAL LIFE problem those people face is the fact that minimum wage at BK isn’t providing them with a sufficient working wage or even enough money to save or invest in anything other than their daily survival.

Many first world nations are experiencing a SHARP-decline in middle-class jobs, but an increased demand of low-paying jobs. Couple that with the fact that we are now currently in an “Employers market” where it’s harder to find fair and equal pay commensurate with your education and experience, and you have a whole nation of people WITH jobs, who are not being compensated nearly as much as they NEED to be in order to be considered ACTUAL economic-success stories. There are young lawyers, architects, and MBA-having young business professionals who are entering the workforce with one of two scary-ass options: 1) Be unemployed and unable to pay down your student debt while you search for a proper paying job which may never come anytime soon, or 2) Take the job that underpays you just to keep the lights onand it would SHOCK many of you to learn how many people choose option 2.

I understand that there are various ways at measuring WHO belongs in the working poor, but if there’s one thing we ALL should be able to agree on, it’s that the job market is NOT nearly as robust as it NEEDS to be in order to provide more stability for families a missed-check away from abject poverty.

This Is Your Conscience

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog ThisIsYourConscience.com, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.


  1. lincolnanthonyblades

    09/24/2012 at 6:19 AM

    Ladies & Gentlemen, Do You Believe That Underemployment Is A HUGE Problem In YOUR Society? Would You Consider Yourself Underemployed?

    • iluvwhoiluv

      09/24/2012 at 9:38 AM

      Yes, I believe it is a bigger problem than unemployment. Once a person does end up getting a job, even if it doesn't pay you enough money, you are limited to the type of assistance you can receive. Let's say you run low on money for food, even if you try to get additional assistance via SNAP (food stamps), they may tell you that you have too much income to qualify for help, even if you are barely making enough to cover rent, car insurance, and car payment. Then, with medical insurance, you may not meet the qualifications for family care, but you may not even be able to afford going to the doctor–because you may make too much according to the "sliding scale" to qualify for a slide.

      At least with unemployment, it can be, "Hey technically no income, so we can provide some sort of help." However, if you are at a job for a length of time and made sizeable amount of money during the time there, you still may not be eligible for that type of help.

      I consider myself underemployed. I was a manager of a business but then the business got taken over by another franchise and he wanted to put in all of his people and keep none of the leftovers.

      At one of the seminars I was required to go to because I was getting unemployment benefits, they stress for the first six months to try and go for the job you really want to get but if you haven't gotten by the time the last 3-6 months rolls around on your claim, then there is this pressure to "take what you can". Their rationale is "by taking unemployment you are having to survive on fifty percent less money anyway."

      So you have a lot of overqualified people battling entry level people for jobs they normally wouldn't take but have to either because their benefits are about to get cut or because they have tried searching for jobs which fit their qualifications but they aren't out there..or you're in a situation where the benefits are less and the pay is less also.

      Sorry…got to rambling on a bit there.

      • lincolnanthonyblades

        09/24/2012 at 3:20 PM

        No problem, it was a much needed rant. Thanks!

  2. petersburgh

    09/24/2012 at 6:34 AM

    Of course it is. Being employed in that field has given me access to that kind of information and all I can say on it is that underemployment is earth shattering. A lot of people look the part but they are totally underutilized and grossly underpaid it's traumatic. To some extent I think I am as I believe most middle management and lower income jobs are

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/24/2012 at 3:21 PM

      Good points. I think people are being grossly underpaid out here in EVREY different type of job.

  3. Smilez_920

    09/24/2012 at 7:29 AM

    When I think of the underemployed , I think of all the people who are 55,000 plus in undergrad/graduate school debt only making 20 ,000 -30,000 a yr. college graduates are being bit the hardest with underemployment, atleast the ones who have worked hard in college , got good grades and had internships/ other work experience.

    • mena

      09/24/2012 at 9:37 AM

      You bring up a good point about the student loan debt vs. how much you make when you get out. People need to be real with these kids who are going to college. I live in an area where 5 of the schools cost 50K a year and these are top schools (GW, American, Howard, Catholic, Georgetown). A lot of these students go to the school for the name and not so much for the education. They need to understand that coming out of undergrad will more than likely NOT get you a 50K a year job. In fact, you will probably make 20-30K. We need to teach these kids to change their thought process on public vs. private school and going to community college first and then transferring into a 4 year university.

      • Smilez_920

        09/24/2012 at 10:29 AM

        I def agree. I will say there are benefits to goingto a school like GW or Howard. I will also say that some students don't take advantage of the benefits that those schools offer .

        Even public schools are becoming expensive because they will not compensate you with a good amount of finicial aid especially if they think your parents have money ( two income household making between 60,000 – 100,000 a yr).

        The school loan interests rates are really killing everyone. I do think ppl need to research different finicial options for school. Young adults also need to be reliatic about what their majoring, what jobs are open in that field and is he cost tuition worth that degree. You shouldn't have a 100,000 $ degree in art history, elementary school education . Etc…

        • mena

          09/24/2012 at 10:34 AM

          Public schools get hit when the state gov't cuts back on their budgets. My friend bought up the best point, education is the one area in economics that doesn't make sense. Usually, more competition = better the rates = better product. Well with education, the more competition = higher costs, and the product isn't always the best. I never thought of this until she brought it up.

          • Smilez_920

            09/24/2012 at 10:58 AM

            I never though of that. I guess it all about needs vs wants. You need ( to certain extent) a college degree to qualify for certain Jobs. Therefore schools ( even public schools are getting hip) will up the price.

            Schools know that certain ppl are going to be looking at them therefore the price reflects a targeted group. Like the schools that have noon commercials after Jerry springer know the income of potential students.

      • GrandCentral

        09/24/2012 at 12:35 PM

        I can't necessarily agree with you on not concentrating on the rankings and prestige of universities, but I completely agree with you on attending a community college to get your core classes out of the way at a reduced cost. This is actually something that I wish I would have done.

        • mena

          09/24/2012 at 1:20 PM

          If you can get the same education at your state school that cost 30K less than going to Georgetown, then you need to go to your state school. I am a program manager and all that i do is hire and manage employees. I could care less where you attended undergrad just that you have the degree and the skills necessary for the job. Too many people focus on the name of the school when they honestly shouldn't. Also, most of my employees have their PhD's in science or MS in computer science. Trust me, agree or not, i know what i am talking about. Also, I am not talking about going to PoDunk University over Harvard. I am talking about attending Virginia Tech over George Washington or Howard.

          • Smilez_920

            09/24/2012 at 1:44 PM

            I think it also depends on the field your going into. For example if your goig to law school and have the chance to go to havrd law over some place else most ppl are going to pick Havard law school.

            All HR managers are different. All hr ppl want to see is that you graduated and have experience. I think school name and prestige come into play when you start networking. I'm sure Gerogretown network and resources are vast. Not saying Virginia Tech isn't. Honestly I rank Virgina Tech , Ohio State , Michagan State and other big state school in the same field as the ivy leagues.

            Ppl pay to much attention to name and not the actual program. Not to say name doesn't count a little bit. I mean ppl know those big state school they hold weight.

          • mena

            09/24/2012 at 1:52 PM

            I'll agree with you on that point in that grad programs are different. In the sciences, if you are going for your PhD, you actually get paid to go and they cover your tuition (that's if you work in a lab). I had an assistantship in grad school that lowered my tuition and paid me a small stipend a semester. Grad school is different b/c even though it is competitive to get in, there tends to be money there to help out. Not all programs but definitely in a lot.

          • GrandCentral

            09/24/2012 at 1:57 PM

            I don't doubt that you know what you are talking about at all. It's really dependent on your industry and geographic location. You are looking at candidates through a broad lenses and that is great, but not all industries or hiring managers see things the way you do. I can tell you first hand, my company ONLY recruits MBA’s from top schools. When I finished undergrad in 05 and went through the recruitment process for my first IB job, there were a few firms who told me straight up, we only recruit from these schools. My undergrad institution is not a top ranked school but regionally they turn out top notch finance and marketing majors. Most of the top investment banks recruit from my school, but there were a few who took a pass on us. I got lucky and took a back door route through a smaller firm who was eventually bought out by a bigger firm (coincidentally that only recruited from ivy leagues) and have that firm on my resume, which got me in the door where I am currently at. So I know all too well the power of a top ranked or prestigious school.

            I am in no way disputing your hiring practice or saying that this habit of looking at school names is right, but sometimes it’s necessary.

          • mena

            09/24/2012 at 2:33 PM

            We are both talking over each other. As i stated to Smilez and Choloe, i am refering to undergrad. No one should come out of undergrad with mass amounts of debt when they could have just gone to their state school. The schools i mentioned at first, are charge 50K/yr for an UNDERGRAD degree which i think is horrendous.

          • Smilez_920

            09/24/2012 at 3:20 PM

            I agree mena. I went to a private school even with fin aid I'm still, somewhere around 50 to 60 in the whole but I plan on going to grad for free if possible.

          • Smilez_920

            09/24/2012 at 3:40 PM

            Hole* ( iPhone auto correct)

          • ChloeRayne516

            09/24/2012 at 3:26 PM

            I agree.

          • lincolnanthonyblades

            09/24/2012 at 3:34 PM

            I will definitely co-sign you on this. Y'all need to come and do school in Canada.

          • GrandCentral

            09/24/2012 at 3:58 PM

            Nope I am not talking over anyone just simply and respectfully stating my opinion. The way you see things from a recruiting prospective is great, but it doesn't always work. I'm talking about undergrad as well. I gave you the MBA example to show you that in some cases you need to chase top ranking or prestige depending on your industry if you want to get ahead. 50K is high for Georgetown and GWU but you get your money's worth, again depending on your industry. As someone who came out of undergrad with a massive amount of education debt, I whole-heartedly agree with you.

          • ChloeRayne516

            09/24/2012 at 2:17 PM

            Mena, I will say this though. And I am talking from what I see at my lawfirm when it comes to HIRING incoming associates. My lawfirm as well as many BIg NYC Lawfirms only go for the creme de la creme of law schools when it comes to choosing new associates,matter of fact Hofstra is on their lower ranking list of law school choices. #SADbutUGLYTRUTH

            In certain fields I have to say YOUR choice of university can play a significant part in your employment outcome/opportunities.

          • mena

            09/24/2012 at 2:31 PM

            Again, for grad school I definitely see the difference. I am speaking about undergrad though. It just isn't THAT important. And again, we aren't talking about going to Online Tech, we are speaking about schools like U of MD, UNC, Michigan, Connecticut, UVA. Those are state schools that are great. You can go to a top 100 undergrad and do very well in grad and in the work force.

      • ChloeRayne516

        09/24/2012 at 1:43 PM

        "going to community college first and then transferring into a 4 year university."

        After getting this advice from a good friend of ours who is an attorney who's daughter will be entering community college in September; This is exactly what me and the ex-husband are doing with our daughter. She will attend a SUNY college first which we are both paying for than have an option of picking whatever university she wants to attend for (since she will be taking out a loan for that) whatever it is she wants to be since her options change from week to week. *smh*. One minute a lawyer now she talking about a sport's agent.. *smh*

        My biggest fear is for her being faced with Underemployment years down the line if the economy hasn't picked backed up by then because she will have loans to pay off because mommy and daddy can't foot the bill for Law School or for a MBA.

        • GrandCentral

          09/24/2012 at 2:00 PM

          You are doing the right thing. The key to her not falling into the trap will be to select a major that will allow her to pursue a career path that is going to be essential to our economy in years to come. Two-years at community college will help her do that.

          • ChloeRayne516

            09/24/2012 at 2:10 PM

            This is exaclty what I told her, she needs to pick something that will stand the test of time during whatever economic situation we may be in at that moment.

            Also I told her make sure you have a game plan before your senior year in HS because I know alot of people from my HS who went to community colleges just to come out with a Liberal Arts Degree…and ended up working as Nurse's Aids, janitors, warehouse distributors (packing boxes, etc) WTH!!!!?? what was the point of going to college then??

          • mena

            09/24/2012 at 2:35 PM

            Hey now!!! Lay off that liberal arts education :-)

          • Smilez_920

            09/24/2012 at 2:39 PM

            Good plan @Chole. But find out what school your daughter wand to go too and make sure try except those credits from that particular community college. A lot of public and private schools and hip to that money saving tip and have a different set of requirements for classes.

            I'm sure your already doing this but have your daughter take AP classes at her high school if they ofer them. They count for collee credit and you only have to pay 125 for the testing fee.

            I know for grad school I'm looking for someone too send me for free. Hopefully I can find a fellowship or job to do so .

          • Smilez_920

            09/24/2012 at 2:43 PM

            They Accept*

          • lincolnanthonyblades

            09/24/2012 at 3:37 PM

            Oh and let me add that general business degrees ain't about a damn thing, and that's from a business major. F*^K a business degree without a MBA.

      • lincolnanthonyblades

        09/24/2012 at 3:31 PM

        Real talk!

      • alexxussknight

        09/24/2012 at 3:45 PM

        I did community college first then an under grad in honours in Business and am still under employed and under paid. The problem is I bought the lie. You know the one, that if you go to school get good grades you'll get a job and have a career and all will be rainbows and sunshine forever and ever amen. B.S. the truth is you could bust your ass at school and come out and 10 years later still be struggling, what we actually need to tell our kids is to find out what they are passionate about, what their purpose is and pursue that to the exclusion of everything else. Figure out a way to make money doing the thing that makes you happiest. From there it will all work out. We also need to tell our kids that this world is not based on what you know it's about who you know and who you can turn to when you need a job, want to change a job, or need a mentor. That is the reality that exists and we need to better prepare our kids for it. IMO.

        • ChloeRayne516

          09/24/2012 at 4:01 PM

          "We also need to tell our kids that this world is not based on what you know it's about who you know and who you can turn to when you need a job, want to change a job, or need a mentor."

          YOu ain't neva lied!!! You know what I realized from overhearing in regards to the bragging about the schools some of these associates have their 4 and 5 years old in…. that alot of hob knobbing/rubbing the right elbows/making the right connections start from a very young age with the parents enrolling their kiddies into a ivy league type pre-school/kindergarten..

        • Smilez_920

          09/24/2012 at 4:03 PM

          Agree. A degree doesn't = success. A degree is just a tool you can use while becoming successful or advancing yourself. It's like building a house. The degree is just the hammer, you still need wood , nails , paint etc ( which would be connections , internships, decent grades an a great résumé) to make the house a home. And even with all of the materials in front of you, if you don't have a plan, are focused , and driven you won't get anywhere.

    • Paul B.

      09/24/2012 at 2:27 PM


    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/24/2012 at 3:22 PM

      Exactly. I also think about older people who have extreme levels of high experience who lose their job, and then try to re-enter the job market and find out that they aren't valued like they once were.

  4. Paul B.

    09/24/2012 at 9:33 AM

    Basically. Employers are looking for the most qualified to pay the least. It's sad to see somebody work their butt off to pay for an education that doesn't finance a good quality of life.

    • ChloeRayne516

      09/24/2012 at 2:01 PM

      The only profession now that can almost guarantee that you will be gainfully employed albeit you continuing educating yourself and moving up the ranks through promotion is NURSING.. Hell even Physicans aren't caking like they used to be; especially those who mainly operating under the acceptance of HMO's.

      It really sad because whats happening now is that those menial jobs that graduates would've once turned their noses up at or now fighting for and since they have that piece of documentation which now makes them overqualified they will get that position over someone with less credentials. "The American Dream blew up in FLAMES"

      • lincolnanthonyblades

        09/24/2012 at 3:26 PM

        I remember reading an article a year ago about how it's impossible to get a substitute teaching job in Detroit because they were inundated with too many applications during the height of recession – but the crazy thing was WHO they were getting job applications from for their 29K a year job. They got resumes from PH.d's, scientists and MBAs just to be high school subs.

        • ChloeRayne516

          09/24/2012 at 3:33 PM

          I believe it!!!!!


          It's not a game ANYMORE, the job market and competiton is saturated with overly qualified applicants who are now forced to take job in other fields of work which makes it even harder for the average joe/jane to compete.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/24/2012 at 3:24 PM

      My thoughts exactly. I saw this first hand with a lawyer who just passed the bar and she was getting job offers equal to what some call centre reps get.

  5. GrandCentral

    09/24/2012 at 12:14 PM

    Get out of my head Lincoln. I just talked about this on our show yesterday.

    Delve into the factual context of Mitt Romney’s 47% comment last week, he actually told the truth to a certain extent – 47% of US citizens don’t pay income taxes because their incomes are so low that they can’t afford to do so. I don’t know the exact statistics but I am pretty sure that a large percentage of the overall percentage of the underemployed fall into the 47% that Romney referenced. So a big part of this problem that is not sinking into our minds as deeply as it should, is the nation’s gradual decline in properly educating our nation. It used to be ok to just graduate from high school and maybe go on to a technical school and learn a trade or just go straight to work and get on the job training. Our economy and demands have changed and we need to adequately adjust. Look at manufacturing for example, many of the underemployed were from that sector or sectors like it, that have out grown our economy and demands, and no longer exist. Granted manufacturing is increasing in the US, it’s not an industry to depend on. According to the labor department there are about 3M jobs that are unfilled because we don’t have a workforce that is adequately trained to take these jobs. Many of these jobs involve science and math, two subject areas that the US is failing to educate students in.

    Sadly it’s all a game that the higher powers intentionally use to keep certain demographics stagnant. In 2009 when the President was fighting to pass the stimulus there were discussions around this issue, where they actually anticipated high underemployment from the recession. The original stimulus package with the higher price tag sought to add educational funding to retrain employees who had spent decades in those dying industries. Funding was included in the final package, but not enough.

    Education and the strength of our economy go hand and hand, and until we acknowledge this and rectify the problem, we will continue to see declines in growth and the continuing eclipse of the middle class.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/24/2012 at 3:30 PM

      Good points.

      Would you consider yourself underemployed?

      • GrandCentral

        09/24/2012 at 4:02 PM

        Thankfully, I am not underemployed. I am extremely blessed and do very well for myself. However, I never take that for granted and know that things could change tomorrow.

        A great deal of it has to do with my geographic location, industry, the year I graduated from college, and the college I went to.

    • @iCh3ryl

      09/25/2012 at 1:25 PM

      THIS—-> "Education and the strength of our economy go hand and hand, and until we acknowledge this and rectify the problem, we will continue to see declines in growth and the continuing eclipse of the middle class."

  6. Adonis

    09/24/2012 at 1:10 PM

    Great Topic

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      09/24/2012 at 3:28 PM

      Thanks for reading.

  7. MistaHarsh

    09/24/2012 at 3:22 PM

    topic rarely spoken about. kudos to shedding light. Another point: all the parents working 3,4,5 jobs just to bring in the income of one good paying job. This has an affect on children ie lack of parenting direction/guidance leading to higher drop out rates crime, gang activity etc not to mention infidelity and higher divorce rates. Underemployment can have a crippling effect on every aspect of our lives.

    • ChloeRayne516

      09/24/2012 at 3:28 PM


    • @iCh3ryl

      09/25/2012 at 1:34 PM

      Great point. Not to mention the stress of working like a mule, and more than likely w/o health benefits. I truly believe education is the foundation with which nations are either built or broken. A lot is riding on this year's election. May the best man win.

  8. Isaiah Macknair

    04/14/2013 at 4:16 AM

    Now Americans can reduce the amount of debt that they owe by as much as 60% in many cases to get rid of the debts they have accumulated in the past. Since the businesses know what it is like to need financial help, they are extending this to the American public in the form of federal help for credit card debt.”

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