Economists: Unemployment Rate Doesn’t Reflect “Discouraged” Writers

BOSTON.  With the lowest unemployment rate in fifty years you’d think that practitioners of “The Dismal Science” would have nothing to complain about, but in doing so you’d grossly underestimate the capacity for negativity among economists.  “I don’t like to give presidents credit for rising wages in the low-income segment of the labor force,” says Alton Baird, a professor at the University of New England, “unless the president is a Democrat.”

“Thank you for that very dismal presentation.  Now, on to our next dismal speaker.”


And so a symposium of economists here warned yesterday that the current unemployment rate of 3.6% is vastly understated and would be considered a national crisis if the number of “discouraged writers” were included.  “What we are seeing is a lost generation of freelancers,” said Niles Deshaies of the Vermont College of Double-Entry Bookkeeping.  “They’ve spent their last fifty-five cents on a stamp for a self-addressed envelope, and are reluctant to send articles elsewhere due to restrictive ‘no simultaneous submissions’ policies.”

“I’m so broke I sold my laptop and carry my desktop computer to Starbucks.”


The Department of Labor defines a “discouraged writer” as one who owns a computer and is able to work, but has not submitted an article to a print publication, either general circulation or literary, in the past four weeks.  Discouraged writers are not counted in official unemployment figures because they have day jobs from which they are trying to escape to the lucrative field of highbrow literature.

“It’s a sad commentary on the future of the American economy,” said University of Massachusetts-Seekonk professor Normand Cesoks.  “All the plum assignments like Parade Magazine’s ‘Ten Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas’ or a Cosmo Girl ‘How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is Dead’ list have been outsourced to India.”

“We’ve got to nurse this baby until they bring back peppermint mochas next Christmas.”


Discouraged writers tend to form mini-gypsy camps in Starbucks outlets, huddled over a shared pumpkin spice latte.  “I wish the government would do something for us,” said Tyler Correnti, who holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from a low-residency program at SUNY-Yonkers.  “I’ve sent out a hundred short stories since Memorial Day, and only one nibble, from Forklift Operators Monthly.”

“We found your story to be too ironic.  Also, not ironic enough.”


The number of discouraged writers is difficult to pinpoint because of the long lag time between submission and response at most print publications.  “I sent a couple of villanelles to plangent voices,” a journal of avant-garde poetry, says Correnti.  “First they told me the editor was out on maternity leave, then they said she had to go to her daughter’s high school graduation.”

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