Many Who Are Trapped on Welfare Don’t Apply for Jobs

COMMENTARY Welfare

Many Who Are Trapped on Welfare Don’t Apply for Jobs

Nov 13th, 2015 1 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Patrick Tyrrell

Research Coordinator

Patrick Tyrrell is a research coordinator in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics.

There are jobs are out there, according to data released Nov. 12 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The question is, who wants them?

The rate of available job openings in the private sector—as a percent of all private-sector jobs—rose in September to its second highest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting data in Dec. 2000. That is just one-tenth of one percent off the high set over the summer.

This is really good news, yet the labor force participation rate (people applying for jobs or working among prime-age workers) is still at a multi-decade low.

As reported previously, able-bodied welfare recipients face a high marginal tax rate if taking a job. They lose benefits as their income grows. Welfare assistance programs are now so generous that people who would otherwise work may find it more profitable to remain wards of the state. That may be rational in a superficial sense, but there are real costs.

The longer people stay out of work, the more their skills atrophy and the harder it is for them to get back on their feet. As pointed out here, when people are told for long enough that they can’t work, they start to believe it.

Welfare also does not carry with it the possibility of job promotion or advancement, another reason it saps the spirit of those who could work but are encouraged not to.

Job openings are less scarce now than at any time in the past 15 years. This is a boon to job searchers, but fewer people are searching. The welfare state is a big part of the explanation for the disconnect between high job openings and low prime-age labor force participation. People who can work should be untethered from government dependency programs that wrongly signal that they are better off staying at home.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal