A swath of millions of Americans have been jobless for a year or more — the hard-core unemployed. Among the causes for their stubborn joblessness are lack of skills, drug habits and felony records.
But there is another, largely overlooked reason: Many of these unemployed people simply can't — or won't — get where the jobs are.
Erica writes: Increasing numbers of experts say the concentration of wealth in big cities, along with the rise of automation, is putting low-wage jobs out of the physical reach of workers.
- Often they live far on the periphery of cities, without easy access to public transportation.
- And for the first time in the nation's history, big numbers of Americans have stopped moving for work. Even when there are jobs in another city or state, they have been unwilling, for reasons no one has been able to decisively explain, to pick up and start a new life.
Both workers and employers are getting hit.
As we've reported, about 13 million working-age people in the U.S. are unemployed, involuntarily working part time or have wholly given up on the job hunt. The problem, though, isn't a lack of jobs — employers complain that they can't fill open positions — but a slew of barriers.
A new report from the Urban Institute analyzed 2017 application data across several types of low-wage, hourly jobs in 16 major U.S. cities, looking at the mismatch between openings and job seekers by zip code.
- In 41% of Boston-area zip codes, there were far more openings than job seekers who lived a reasonable distance away. In other words, most possible applicants lived too far from the workplace, and there either was no efficient public transportation to the job or the cost was too high to get there.
- In New York, 32% of zip codes had this problem. In San Francisco, 29%.
- The trend stretched to middle-sized cities, too: 24% of Denver-area zip codes had this mismatch. In Columbus, 37%.
"These are people who are looking to enter the job market, and if they can't find it feasible from a transportation or cost or distance perspective, that's saying that there are significant barriers in place."— Joseph Kane, Brookings Institution
What's happening: Poorer city residents live in the "last-subway-stop" parts of cities, a couple of hours, or farther, from work — and they either can't afford to or don't want to move.
Another bucket of low-wage jobs, those in factories or warehouses, have the opposite problem. Companies like Amazon are building their warehouses far away from city centers, close to airports and highways and away from major public transit lines. They can be difficult to access without a car, says Brookings' Kane.
- In Minneapolis, Amazon and General Mills have started offering shuttles to ferry workers from the city to the warehouses, reports the Star Tribune.
The solution is twofold, Christina Stacy, lead author of the Urban Institute report, tells Axios. Cities need to revisit train and bus lines and build affordable housing closer to downtown. "Until we figure out how to make every job a high-quality job, connecting people to a job is crucial," says Stacy.