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What Is Frictional Unemployment?

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Frictional unemployment is also sometimes referred to as search unemployment. It refers to the unemployed period when people are between jobs or looking for their first job. This is the one type of unemployment that is probably impossible to eradicate completely. It is far less serious than the chronic lack of work that some people are faced with. In a lot of instances frictional unemployment will be voluntary because people are trying to find the work that offers them the best pay and conditions.

Frictional Unemployment Defined

Almost everyone will go through at least one period of frictional unemployment during their work career. Those people who leave school will generally have to spend a bit of time searching for suitable work. If people work on a contract basis they will tend to have gaps in-between contracts that could also fall into this category of unemployment. Those who have a gap in-between one job and starting the next one can also be described in this way. In many instances people like contract workers will be prepared for this period with no work so it will be no great hardship.

The Benefits of Frictional Unemployment

It is normal for us to consider any period without work to be a bad thing, but frictional unemployment can actually be a good thing. It encourages the individual to find work that is going to be best suited to their needs and skills. This not only benefits them but also benefits society as a whole as it is a mechanism that encourages the best people to end up in the most suitable jobs. It is also good for the employers as it means there is a constant flow of people who are looking for new opportunities. So far from it being a bad thing these periods where people are without work might be crucial for a successful economy.

What Influences Frictional Unemployment?

This type of unemployment is influenced by a number of different factors. The time of year can have a huge impact on the number of people seeking work for the first time. After graduation there will be a whole new cohort of young adults looking for their first opportunities in the business world. The rate of this type of unemployment can also go up depending on location. For example, in rural areas there can be a surge in the number of people looking for work during the winter; this is when there is less to do on the land.

Frictional unemployment is also influenced by structural unemployment. There can often be a difference in the number of people who want to work in a certain industry and the number of job opportunities available. A good example of this is the construction industry where a slowdown can leave a lot of people desperate to find any type of work. Structural unemployment can be particularly hard to deal with and it may force people to retrain so as to get work in a completely different industry.

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Meet the Author

Anthony Carter currently resides in Fife, Scotland with his wife Lisa, and their three wonderful children. As a senior editor for various publications, if he's not reading and writing, you would find him photographing and traveling to some of the most far-flung locations around the world.


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