How many people are actually unemployed in the United States? I got another partial answer -- the estimated number of "discouraged workers." Those are the folks who have been unemployed long enough or had such disheartening experiences while job hunting that they've given up. Apparently it comes close to being a one-for-one match. That is, for every person who is officially unemployed, there's another person who's a discouraged worker and no longer counts. Which is, I guess, another way of saying that if the official unemployment rate for persons who would fall within the parameters of the labor force (ages 15 through 64) is about 9%, the actual is more like 18%. Maybe.
Whatever the real numbers are, it does raise an interesting question: just how the fuck are people surviving? I heard a bizarre story on NPR this morning touting the underground economy, the informal economy, which the supposed expert was quick to note does not necessarily entail illegal activity (e.g., drug dealing), but I find it hard to believe many people can manage to survive for very long by holding endless yard sales, scrounging for scrap metal, or doing unlicensed daycare in their homes.