By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, April 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. voters may run out of patience as the jobless crisis continues with no end in sight, and that could hurt Democrats in the 2014 midterm Congressional elections, experts said.
In a story that has repeated every month for the past several years, the U.S. unemployment rate remained high in March, according to last week's lackluster jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department. The jobless rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent.
Millions of Americans remain unemployed, and the long-term unemployed -- the number of those jobless for 27 weeks or more -- stands at a staggering 3.7 million, accounting for 35.8 percent of the total number of unemployed individuals.
Economists, human resources departments and employment agencies across the board say the longer people are out of work, the more difficult it is for them to find a job, as potential employers believe that skills can deteriorate during long stints of joblessness.
That has created an army of people who could be jobless for years to come, and some U.S. media reports suggested the trend could create a new underclass.
The unemployment problem is even worse than the unemployment rate signals, as that number does not account for the millions of workers who have quit searching for full-time work out of sheer frustration.
Economists say a more accurate number to follow is the workforce participation rate, which measures the number of those who are participating in the workforce, as the name implies. That stands at 63.2 percent, a six-month high in March.
Indeed, the so-called "recovery" from the worst recession in decades does not look like a recovery at all from a jobs perspective, critics said. While the stock market is surging, and those at the top of the economic ladder are doing well, many middle class Americans continue to struggle.
This has led some economists to question whether high unemployment is the new normal.
"I think that is a growing concern. The labor market seems to be changing back to the type of situation that was common in the late 1980s and early 1990s when unemployment was consistently above 6 percent," Barry Bosworth, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
"However, we still don't know if the young people who left ( the workforce) in the recession will come back in as they age. It looks like a cohort that has somehow learned to live with lower rates of employment," he said.
Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, spelled out the situation bluntly: "The overall gap in the labor market ...is 7.3 million jobs. At the pace of growth of the last three months, it will take more than 5 years to fill that gap," she said in a report released Friday.
By those calculations, high jobless rates will have been the norm for a decade.
What does all this mean for the 2014 midterm Congressional elections?
For most Americans, jobs and the economy top the list of concerns. But several years into President Barack Obama's time in office, the economy is still lagging. Democratic candidates will have a difficult time trying to convince voters to stick with them, experts said.
Unlike in presidential elections, in which Democratic voters' turnout is high, that is not the case in midterm elections -- and this year in particular is seeing a lack of motivation among the Democratic base to head to the polls. In sharp contrast, Republican voters are galvanized.
Noted Democratic pollster Celinda Lake last month told reporters that while there is always a challenge in Democratic turnout, "it's really dramatic this time."
She pointed to a new George Washington University poll that found 64 percent of Republicans said they are "extremely likely" to head to the polls this November, whereas the figure for Democrats was 57 percent, a seven-point difference.
Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that vulnerable Democratic members of Congress could take one of two strategies.
"One, they can pray for an economic recovery, or two, they can get out on a stump and start winning the message game over Republicans by painting them as questionable characters," O' Connell said.
But as economic recovery is unlikely to come at a rapid clip before November, Democrats will double down and take the latter strategy, he said.