According to government statistics, 7.4% of Americans are unemployed today. That’s over and above the nearly 90 million Americans who are reportedly not in the labor force. Every presidential race in recent memory has had our nation’s unemployment rate as a key topic of discussion. However, as we look at these statistics, we should first ask ourselves how these numbers are actually being calculated. Could we be missing something?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The basic concepts involved in identifying the employed and unemployed are quite simple:
- People with jobs are employed.
- People who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work are unemployed.
- People who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force.”
That may be “quite simple,” but it’s also an antiquated definition of employment. Our society and our workforce have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Back then, it was easier to calculate the unemployment rate because jobs were more static and traditional. Today, what we consider to be a “job” has changed, and it’s crucial that we take these new trends into account we when discuss issues related to unemployment – and how we should go about fixing it.
While the traditional workforce is going through difficult times, many creative thinkers who embrace new methods of income generation are finding endless opportunities. We’ve all read about crowdfunding services like Kickstarter that provide a lifeline to artists seeking support for their work. But even regular individuals who can’t paint or sing can take advantage of this new, entrepreneurial economy. Indeed, studies estimate that by the year 2020, a full 40% of American workers will be freelancers.
Friends of Will’s – laid off from jobs that they couldn’t stand – now make a living working for themselves, doing what they love. For some, it’s sharing knowledge about marketing and business, earned through traditional education; for others, it’s consulting on topics like art and meditation, picked up through life experiences. Thanks to technology and platforms like LiveNinja (which Will founded), they’re not limited to teaching their neighbors; they can market to the entire world with very little barrier to entry.
Maybe the answer to the “jobs crisis” isn’t offering incentives to large companies to site their operations in a given region, or to cherrypicked startups in hopes that they’ll flourish and the benefits will “trickle down.” Perhaps the answer is to encourage, and enable, a broader swath of the public to consider themselves entrepreneurs and encourage them to re-evaluate what they have to offer. Even the most demoralized jobseekers may be surprised to realize how many opportunities exist in new professions and areas that were much more difficult to monetize in the past.
For example, people with skills that were once considered hobbies – like video games, fashion, music, fitness, and mentoring – are now in-demand consultants that people pay to talk to on a regular basis. The reality is, the job market isn’t getting bleaker. It’s becoming more opportunistic by embracing change and evolving with the times.
Will Weinraub is the CEO and co-founder of LiveNinja, a video chat monetization platform for experts and service providers to sell their knowledge to a global customer base.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.