A report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, The Depression in Blue Collar Labor Markets in Massachusetts and the U.S., presents the following table:
If that holds true across the nation, as I expect is largely the case, it is easier to see why the jobless rate is so high - and why it's so difficult to attack unemployment. In a real estate crash, with a worsening commercial real estate sector, it's not very realistic to expect a significant number of construction jobs to emerge, even with huge stimulus bills. Despite a government effort to save General Motors and Chrysler, without which the manufacturing jobs picture would look a lot worse, there's no obvious way to generate more domestic manufacturing jobs.
So instead you have people who may well have strong vocational skills, but who are competing for jobs that have for now disappeared from the economy, or are trying to find jobs in other fields where job availability is better, but for which they lack experience and often also lack appropriate job skills.
Even if it's part of a solution, I don't see the answer as being "a bigger jobs bill", and as I've previously observed it's pretty clear why a lot of government tactics appear designed to "reinflate" the housing bubble - how else are you going to affect unemployment in the construction sector, which is so high that it distorts the overall unemployment picture and is unlikely to significantly improve over the next few years by any other means? About the only thing the government can do is create a massive "public works" program to directly employ a significant percentage of the population until the jobs picture improves - and I don't think that's politically viable, even if it could be done in a relatively cost-effective manner and we could identify appropriate work for the program to perform.
The report does make suggestions, but I just don't see how they can be implemented on anywhere near the necessary scale to make a short-term difference, or even how they will benefit the majority of the affected workers in the longer term. The numbers are just too large, and the impediments to creating stable, long-term manufacturing jobs or new construction jobs cannot be discounted.