Wall Street Journal Microtrends Column
By MARK PENN with E. KINNEY ZALESNE
From The Wall Street Journal Microtrends Column
Published November 18, 2009

Unemployment has hit double digits in the U.S., and in some areas of the industrial Midwest, it is approaching 16%. Joblessness in many parts of this country is destructive beyond belief. The Federal Reserve Chairman said he sees little prospect of immediate relief.

And yet, in other areas it is not nearly as bad as it could have been. One reason is that bringing home a paycheck, especially in upper-income households, is a shared responsibility today. That fact alone, in a recession, can provide a lot of families with a built-in backstop–an Unemployment Cushion–to the destitution that unemployment in a recession can cause.

In the last 50 years, job growth has far outstripped population growth. As a result, today’s 10.2% unemployment rate leaves a far greater proportion of the population at work than in the past. In 1961, for example, when we hit 7.1% unemployment, the record for that period, only a third of Americans had jobs. Today, even with 10% unemployment, nearly half the country, or 138 million people, is still at work.

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