Unemployment in the United States

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In the year 1950, the official documentation of unemployment figures in the United States began. Estimates of historical unemployment, on the other hand, have been approximated over time. Unemployment rates in the United States were projected to be 23.6 percent during the Great Depression (Bordo et al., 2017). This is the highest rate of unemployment ever reported in the United States. During the war, the lowest unemployment rate in the United States was registered in 1944, when it was 1.2 percent (Bordo et al., 2017). In 1953, the unemployment rate was at its lowest since World War II.
The US has witnessed a total of 11 recessions with the federal government taking mixed remedial measures to salvage the unemployment situation. The rates of unemployment have always differed among different presidential tenures. The early years of 1980 experienced worst rates of unemployment registering a historical high of 10.8 percent and later falling to 5.3 percent during President Reagan’s second tenure (Bordo et al., 2017).

The unemployment worsened to 7.5 percent in 1992 during president George H.W Bush's reign and moved between 4-6 percent under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tenures. The latest global depression (2008-2012) kept the unemployment rates above 10 percent, remaining above 8 percent until the end of the economic downturn in late 2012 (Bordo et al., 2017). The unemployment rates in the United States have assumed a decreasing trend from 8.3 in 2012 and currently, stand at 4.1 percent as of October 2017 (Bordo et al., 2017). And with this reduction, reduces the burden and problems associated with high unemployment rates.

Measures to Mitigate Unemployment Problem


Education is an imperative factor in one securing a job. Elevated education levels impart the learners with better skills and knowledge that are desirable in the labor market. Unemployment caused by low levels of education (below college levels) may be solved by acquisition of training in vocational training centers.


The government should promote entrepreneurial skill development through integrating of entrepreneurship courses in the education curriculum. This will go a long way in helping people set up their businesses than wait for government employment. Entrepreneurship may also be promoted by reducing interest rates on loans to individuals to encourage business development.



The concept of age in sociology is defined in relation to the societal interactions with individuals of different ages. Age refers to the categorization of individuals in a society based on hierarchical groups. Age stratification may be defined as the inequity in treatment of various individuals based on their age factor (Boland et al., 2015). In the United States, employment is one of the social spheres where age stratification is manifested. The young and the old have been discriminated against in employment leading to higher rates of unemployment among the young and the old as compared to the middle-aged citizens. Whereas the young have been largely considered inexperienced in their employment search, the old are regarded as less competent. As such, the age concept will help in understanding the disparities in unemployment rates among the society's different age groupings.


Race concept in sociology may refer to the different treatment accorded to various individuals in the society based on their characteristic biological similarities and differences (Bennett, 2014). Understanding the race concept helps in making sociological sense of the variation in rates of unemployment among people with different biological characteristics in the United States, for instance, the variation in unemployment rates between the black Americans and the white Americans.


Gender does not denote the physiological and physical differences between male and female. Gender refers to the entirety in conception, perception, treatment, and reaction of the society towards a masculine or feminine individual (Guimarães, 2005). It involves the cultural attitudes and beliefs of the roles associated with either gender. Understanding the gender concept is important in comparing the rates of unemployment in the American society with respect to men and women as a factor.


Disability is defined as the situation of inherent inability to perform various activities normally. It may also be described as a condition of physical or mental impairment of an individual that incapacitates him or her to go about the normal human activities (Randolph∗ et al, 2004). It is of great importance to understand the disability concept as a prelude to a comparison of the US unemployment disparity based on disability count. In the new wake of human rights activism, social discrimination based on disability is highly detestable and intolerable.

Functional Theory

Human society is best understood in sociological aspects. Sociology as an area of study examines social environments such social change and development, social organizations and institutions, and social interactions (Guimarães, 2005). Unemployment is one of the areas that sociology explains in its broad perspectives. Although sociologically the concept of unemployment can be understood through both the functionalist and conflict theories, this essay addresses only the functionalist theory. Functionalist school of thought advances that all the things in the society exist to serve unique functions which must be understood. The theory was developed by Durkheim. His aim was to preserve the society. Durkheim’s social order argument was founded on morals rather than economic argument. In his theory, Durkheim postulated that belief by individuals that all the things were in their best interest is the main foundation of a functionalist society (Boland et al., 2015).

From a realist's point of view, it is a plausible argument that the world population is so high that all people to serve a distinct purpose. This could be hinged on the observation that many companies and organizations demand same qualities and skills from their employees thereby making it easy to switch between companies. These views are contrary to the postulations of the functionalist theory. Functionalists advance that not all the things have unique functions in the society; rather, every function can be interpreted. In reference to unemployment, though, functionalists do not account for any societal transformations. Functionalism views unemployment to serve its own unique role in the society (Boland et al., 2015).

Unemployment causes a lot of suffering and breeds the social stratification. Those individuals who lie in the disadvantaged social class have to rely on government transfers, which impoverish these people further. This development influences the structure of the families by piling more pressure on incomes (Boland et al., 2015). This could be the functionalist point. Functionalists argue that unemployment helps in maintaining the existence of all classes of citizens in the society. The people who fall in the low class exist to take up the jobs that cannot be done by middle and first class people. The theory thus succinctly states that unemployment is necessary to perform a purpose of ensuring the social classes are maintained.


Bennett, J., (2014). The Impact of Age, Race and Ethnicity on Employment. ( Published doctoral dissertation, Georgia State University). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/sociology_diss/79

Boland, T., & Griffin, R. (Eds.). (2015). The sociology of unemployment. Oxford University Press.

Bordo, M. D., & Haubrich, J. G. (2017). Deep recessions, fast recoveries, and financial crises: Evidence from the American record. Economic Inquiry, 55(1), 527-541.

Guimarães, N. A. (2005). Towards a sociology of unemployment. Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais, 1(SE), 0-0.

Randolph∗, D. S., & Andresen, E. M. (2004). Disability, gender, and unemployment relationships in the United States from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system. Disability & Society, 19(4), 403-414.

September 21, 2021

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