If At First You Don’t Succeed

We’re told it’s good news, and perhaps it is good news: The U.S. unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to 8.6% in November, its lowest level in two and half years.

The New York Times noted that the “American economy appears to be getting better, even as the rest of the world is looking worse.”

Further down in the article, however, a sore spot was revealed: The unemployment rate declined “partly because more workers got jobs, but also because about 315,000 workers dropped out of the labor force,” the Times explained. “That left the share of Americans actively participating in the work force at a historically depressed 64%, down from 64.2% in October.”

In short, many fewer people are unemployed because more people have given up on even looking for work.

Image Credit: Lisa Benson, 2011

As we’ve discussedPeter Drucker found nearly all employment measures to be dubious. There are just too many potentially distorting factors at play. [EXPAND More]

But Drucker would not have found it hard to believe that people are getting discouraged, especially if they’re sending out application after application with no luck. “Few popular maxims are as wide of the mark as, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” Drucker stated in Managing for Results. “Success in repetitive attempts becomes less rather than more probable with each repetition.”

And we’ve also pointed out that Drucker, whose early career unfolded during the Great Depression, had ample sympathy for those who despair of finding work.

“The main effect of long-term unemployment is not physical but psychological: loss of self-respect; loss of initiative; finally, in extreme cases, loss of sanity,” Drucker wrote in The New Society. Drucker even spoke of “depression psychosis” as a condition resulting from chronic unemployment or even just chronic fear of unemployment.

If you didn’t have a job, would you ever stop looking for work—and what would keep you going after months and months of fruitless searching?[/EXPAND]