Social Impact

The economic cost of unemployment is certainly large, but no -dollar figure can adequately the, human and psychological loll of long periods 01′ persistent involuntary unemployment. The per- sonal tragedy of unemployment has been proved again and again. We can read of the futility of a job search in San Francisco during the Great Depression: I’d getup at five in the morning and head for the waterfront. Outside the Speckles Sugar Refinery, outside the gates, there would be a thousand men. You know dang well there’s only three or four jobs. The guy would come out with two little Pinkerton cops: “I need two guys for the bull gang. Two guys to go into the hole.” A thousand men would fight like a pack of Alaskan dogs to get through. Only four of us
would get through.”

It would be surprising if such experiences did not leave scars. Psychological duties indicate that being fired from a job is generally as traumatic as the death of a close friend ‘or failure in school. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, man)’ people who lost their jobs were well-paid managers, professionals, and similar white-collar workers who had never expected to be out of work. For them, the shock of being unemployed hit hard. Listen to the story of one middle-aged corporate manager who lost his job in 1988’and was still without permanent work in 1992.

Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of the social impact of economic downturns came in Russia after the shock therapy of market-reforms (see the discussion in Chapter 28). By 1995, 1 in 5 workers was It of work, and real output had dropped sharply. Health conditions deteriorated and life expectancy fell sharply.