Discouraged Workers: Definition and How To Avoid Becoming One

What Is a Discouraged Worker?

Why do people become discouraged workers?

After being out of work for a while, people may become discouraged for a number of reasons, including:

A lack of suitable jobs

Many dejected workers believe that there are no jobs that fit their abilities or skills. They think this is because there aren’t enough jobs available in their particular field of work. Some discouraged workers might prefer to wait for their ideal position rather than applying for openings.

Inadequate training or education

Some discouraged workers might think they need more training to be qualified for jobs or that they are not sufficiently qualified for a suitable position. If employees find it difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, they may feel this way. During the Great Recession, manufacturing companies fired older employees who couldn’t operate the new machinery in the factories as an illustration of this.


Some discouraged employees think they are a victim of discrimination in one or more ways. For being too young or old for positions, some people believe they are the victims of age discrimination. Others think they are facing gender or race discrimination. When a person’s employment options are restricted due to a criminal record, that is another instance of discrimination. Other types of discrimination may be based on sexual orientation, disability, or religion.

What are discouraged workers?

People who have given up looking for work in the past year (or since their last job ended in the past year) are referred to as discouraged workers. A job seeker who stops looking for employment for at least four months is considered discouraged.

These workers are physically and mentally capable of working and want to work, but they have stopped working because they feel there are no jobs for them. A demotivated employee is likely to accept a position offered by an organization. In general, recent graduates, the elderly, and people of color are more likely to experience work-related discouragement.

Employees who are discouraged are those who aren’t actively looking for work. The U. S. Government views discouraged workers as only tangentially connected to the workforce and does not count them as active workers. The number of discouraged workers is not included in the headline unemployment rate, which has a negative impact on how unemployment statistics are interpreted and analyzed. The official unemployment rate captures “frictional unemployment. Therefore, the actual unemployment rate could be much higher than stated.

Discouraged workers vs. marginally attached workers

Marginally attached workers can include those who continued their education to increase their employment prospects, women who chose to stay at home with their children, or those who have become disabled and are no longer able to work.

Tips to avoid becoming a discouraged worker

To stay competitive in the workplace, maintain your knowledge and job skills, and prevent worker disengagement, try the following advice:

Know what skills are in demand

Keep abreast of the abilities that employers in your field are looking for. You can do this by reading job postings, making a list of the skills employers are looking for in candidates, and then researching those skills. To learn more about the skills that are in demand in your field of work, you can also speak with your employer’s human resources staff. The agendas for workshops or conferences are a useful resource for discovering in-demand skills as they will provide you with knowledge of the abilities that are common and required in other career fields.

Create a skills development plan

Make a development plan for yourself to acquire the skills that are required in your field of employment once you are aware of their demand. Professional development courses to advance your career or academic credit toward a degree can be part of a development plan. To improve your skills, you can also think about certification programs or other educational opportunities.

Use online resources

Online forums, industry news sites, and educational webinars are just a few of the free educational resources available. Staying current with the newest trends is made simple by online resources. You can use online tools to create and maintain your network, such as using networking sites for professionals to get in touch with senior staff at companies where you’d like to work. Online tools can also assist you in maintaining contact with both current and past clients.

Attend industry events

Industry events are great for keeping up with changes in a particular industry. Forums, workshops, and seminars are held by business associations, professional associations, or regional organizations, giving you access to subject matter experts and networking opportunities.

Read industry publications

Read trade magazines and professional journals to keep abreast of changes in your industry. These are frequently available online or by subscribing to print publications.

Become a volunteer

To advance your skills, consider volunteering for tasks at work or at other organizations. Don’t forget to list the abilities you acquire on your resume as work experience.

Develop your hard and soft skills

It’s beneficial to work on your interpersonal skills, such as communication and time management, in addition to honing your job-specific abilities. These transferable soft skills will be helpful to you if you decide to switch industries or careers.

Highlight your skills

When applying for jobs, keep in mind to make sure your resume and cover letter highlight your most pertinent skills in order to as closely as possible match those listed in the job advertisement.

Continue updating your skills

Updating your skills is an ongoing process. Keeping up with changes in technology and industry best practices will increase the marketability of your resume. When you are proactive and make plans for change, you will have more access to job opportunities.


What is considered a discouraged worker?

Discouraged workers, according to the BLS, are those who want a job but aren’t actively looking for one because they think there aren’t any openings for them.

Are discouraged workers out of the labor force?

Discouraged workers, who are frequently categorized as marginally attached to the labor force, on the margins of the labor force, or as part of hidden unemployment, are typically not counted in most official unemployment rates as they are not considered to be part of the labor force, which affects the appearance of these rates.

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