Don’t trust low unemployment numbers as proof that the labor market is doing fine—it isn’t. Not Working is about those who can’t find full-time work at a decent wage—the underemployed—and how their plight is contributing to widespread despair, a worsening drug epidemic, and the unchecked rise of right-wing populism.
In this revelatory and outspoken book, David Blanchflower draws on his acclaimed work in the economics of labor and well-being to explain why today’s postrecession economy is vastly different from what came before. He calls out our leaders and policymakers for failing to see the Great Recession coming, and for their continued failure to address one of the most unacknowledged social catastrophes of our time. Blanchflower shows how many workers are underemployed or have simply given up trying to find a well-paying job, how wage growth has not returned to prerecession levels despite rosy employment indicators, and how general prosperity has not returned since the crash of 2008.
Standard economic measures are often blind to these forgotten workers, which is why Blanchflower practices the “economics of walking about”—seeing for himself how ordinary people are faring under the recovery, and taking seriously what they say and do. Not Working is his candid report on how the young and the less skilled are among the worst casualties of underemployment, how immigrants are taking the blame, and how the epidemic of unhappiness and self-destruction will continue to spread unless we deal with it.
Awards and Recognition
- Co-Winner of the Silver Medal in Economics, Axiom Business Book Awards
- One of Prospect's Best Economics Books of 2019
David G. Blanchflower is the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, professor of economics at the University of Stirling, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is the coauthor of The Wage Curve. He lives in Canaan, New Hampshire. Twitter @D_Blanchflower
"In this thought-provoking study of the functioning—and malfunctioning—of the labor market, David Blanchflower presents a powerful analysis of one of the most important issues facing our society today: the quest for good jobs. This is a book that will be of interest to economists and policymakers around the world."—Mohamed A. El-Erian, author of The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse
"This is economics as it should be: crystal clear, persuasively argued, and enlightening on the big question of our age, namely why so many people feel the economy does not work for them even though unemployment is so low. If you care about how to fix the mess in the rich West, Blanchflower's Not Working is for you."—Robert Peston, political editor, ITV News
"Facts are stubborn things, even in economics. Sometimes it takes a stubborn principled economist to get the facts through the thick head of the economics profession and policymakers. Thankfully, David Blanchflower is just such a stubborn principled economist, and Not Working should finally drive home the realities of today's labor markets to the public and the officials who serve them. The research by Blanchflower underlying Not Working was first provocative, then prescient, and now is pressing for policymakers. Also thankfully, Blanchflower makes the case crystal clear."—Adam S. Posen, President, Peterson Institute for International Economics, and External Member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, 2009–2012
"David Blanchflower is superlative at piecing together the big picture—a sobering one—from an immense amount of data, both statistical and commonsensical. We need to heed the book's urgent message about another impending crisis."—Nouriel Roubini, coauthor of Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance
"David Blanchflower, a leading labor economist, delivers two trenchant messages in this incisive book. To economists he says: 'look and see,' not 'see and look.' Had they looked at the numbers and not stuck to their theories, they would have seen that a big collapse was coming in 2007. His message to policymakers is 'look at underemployment,' not the headline unemployment figures, to see the slack in the economy. Underemployment—people working less than they want to—explains why, contrary to all past experience, wage inflation has not taken off with the recovery of full employment. A wake-up call to both economists and policymakers."—Robert Skidelsky, University of Warwick, author of John Maynard Keynes and Money and Government