In 46 of 50 States, There are More Unemployed Americans (13.9 Million) Than There is Total Population (In Any of Those Individual States)

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

September 1, 2011

Wall Street Journal blogger David Wessel has developed a different and more painful way to explain the United States’ unemployment crisis. Wessel goes beyond the dreary statistic too familiar to so many of us: 13.9 million unemployed Americans, a total that represents only those seeking work. If you included Americans looking for a full time job who cannot find one, the total increases to nearly 22 million, an E-6 unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.

Those are hurtful unemployment levels. But Wessel brings the numbers closer to home by breaking them out this way. There are more unemployed people in the U.S. than there are residents in the state of Illinois, the fifth largest state.

In fact, more unemployed live in U.S. than there are total people in 46 of the 50 states. Those states with larger populations than all the unemployed combined are only Florida, New York, Texas and California.

There are more unemployed than the combined populations of 13 states and the District of Columbia. Those states are Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, and Idaho.

If unemployed Americans joined to form a country, the 13.9 million would be the world’s 68th largest nation, bigger than the population of either Greece or Portugal (each of which has 10.8 million people) and more than twice the population of Norway (4.7 million). [The United States of Unemployment, by Davis Wessel, Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2011]

As bleak as this picture is, it doesn't take into account either individuals who are working but not earning a living wage or people who have to work at more than one job to sustain themselves and their families.

Here are some other numbers to consider. According to the Department of Homeland Security in its report titled "Non-Immigrant Admissions to the United States: 2010," 160 million non-immigrant admissions were allowed last year, more than at any other time in history. While the DHS report estimates that 87 percent of these admissions were short-term and for business or pleasure, that still leaves nearly 20 million entrants included in other categories. About 3.4 percent are students.

But are they legitimate students who with their F-1 visas attend classes at a full time university or are they sham artists like the ones at the bogus Tri-Valley College? Were they issued a J-1visa cultural exchange visa like the students that the Hershey Company scammed and put to work in their warehouses?

And, of course, there’s the biggest bugaboo in controlling the nonimmigrant visa issuance, the change of status option that allows so many entrants on "temporary" visas to eventually become permanent residents. Many by pass change of status altogether and simply don’t go home. Some eventually enter the black market economy by working off the books.

An aggregate of 160 million entrants, more than half the nation’s total population, is too big a number to track diligently and can eventually lead to abuses in the employment markers.

Fewer non-immigrant visas would mean more jobs for unemployed Americans.


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