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The Suburbanite
  • American dream takes another hit

  • By all logic, Eric Van Horn should have a line of job seekers at his business. But despite hiring from the area’s largest unemployed age group, he must go begging for workers.
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  • By all logic, Eric Van Horn should have a line of job seekers at his business. But despite hiring from the area’s largest unemployed age group, he must go begging for workers.
    Van Horn is on the front line of a disturbing trend in our economy, a new generation of jobless. Increasing numbers of young people are employable but resisting work. They form yet another “have-not” sector of our economy, and their numbers have only recently begun to cause alarm. They’ve quit on the American dream.
    “Frankly, I think a lot of people simply don’t want to work anymore,” Van Horn said.
    He owns Shiny Brite, a Canton window-washing service. He looks for workers age 18 to 30 and starts them at $9.50 an hour, above minimum wage, with raises if they are productive.
    He offered health insurance but no longer does. “Hard to believe, but nobody wanted to sign the papers,” he said.
    His biggest fringe benefit: He offers to train his workers in “how to start their own business, attract and keep customers and manage employees.
    “This is my responsibility for the future,” he said. “I’ll even show them how to start a business like mine.”
    No takers there, either.
    STILL ON A LADDER
    Van Horn had figured that by now — he’s 57 — he could sit back and manage his company. But no, he’s out there on a ladder with one of his crews every day.
    He talks to other business owners and said that all of them share the same concern.
    “The government isn’t helping. In my hiring, my biggest competitor is military recruiters,” he said. “I am losing a whole crew (three members) to the Navy and Marine Corps. Recruiters track us down and sign the papers on the job.”
    He has turned to seeking employees at his church and the churches of his friends. He spends a lot of time on it and is wondering if he ever will get off the ladders.
    “None of the old ways to find employees work today,” he said.
    An economist in Forbes magazine researched the rapid decline in U.S. labor-force participation and found it “striking.” Millions of employable Americans from teens to pre-retirement have stopped looking for work. Even those in their prime earning years are opting to stay at home.
    The problem is worldwide. Some 57 percent of businesses report they cannot find enough workers for entry-level jobs traditionally worked by young people, according to the International Labor Organization.
    NOT COUNTED
    Page 2 of 2 - You won’t find the non-working employables in the unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “U-6” unemployment report, which does include the otherwise uncounted unemployed, today’s 7.3 percent jobless rate actually is closer to 13.8 percent.
    You will see the non-workers in the little-publicized “employment-to-population rate.” Over 20 years, an average of 67 percent of us in employable condition were at work, building our economy, seeking our dreams. The latest figure has dropped to 58 percent, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart is trending straight down.
    Bringing the employable back into the fold may be the biggest challenge we face, but reinvigorating our work force is less expensive than watching the numbers of non-working Americans grow.
    “All I’m looking for is reasonable, trustworthy human beings who can pass a drug test and have a driver’s license,” Van Horn said. “I’ve never seen so many people who are unwilling to do that.”
    Reach Jim at 330-580-8324.
    On Twitter: @jhillibishREP�

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