Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2011

Toward Institutional Innovation in US Labor Market Policy: Learning from Europe?

Tobias Schulze-Cleven, Henry Farrell

July 2010

Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy


What keeps US labor market institutions from more effectively helping the nation cope with the current economic crisis and secure its future prosperity? What is the scope for politically feasible innovation in US labor market policy? These are crucial policy questions. As a result of the global financial crisis, the US unemployment rate climbed into double digits and has remained higher than in many European countries. The US is experiencing the highest level of unemployment for a generation and the highest rate of long-term unemployment for more than half a century. American families are suffering from financial hardship without any fault of their own, and many of the currently unemployed will find it hard to re-enter the workforce during the recovery. Nor is the government easily able to use current programs to help those seeking work. Even though policymakers have launched new initiatives during the past year, the US remains almost uniquely weak among advanced industrialized democracies in its lack of policy programs to support the populace in successfully engaging with the labor market.