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Types of Unemployment

There are three primary categories of unemployment that are typically discussed. They are structural, frictional, and cyclical unemployment.

Structural Unemployment

Structural Unemployment, one of the three types of unemployment, is associated with the mismatch of jobs and workers due to the lack of skills or simply the wrong area desired for work. Structural unemployment depends on the social needs of the economy and dynamic changes in the economy. 

For instance,advances in technology and changes in market conditions often turn many skills obsolete; this typically increases the unemployment rate. For example, laborers who worked on cotton fields found their jobs obsolete with Eli Whitney's patenting of the cotton gin. Similarly, with the rise of computers, many jobs in manual book keeping have been replaced by highly efficient software. Workers who find themselves in this situation find that they need to acquire new skills in order to obtain a new job.

Frictional Unemployment

Frictional Unemployment is always present in the economy, resulting from temporary transitions made by workers and employers or from workers and employers having inconsistent or incomplete information. This type of unemployment is closely related to structural unemployment due to its dependence on the dynamics of the economy. It is caused because unemployed workers may not always take the first job offer they receive because of the wages and necessary skills. This type of unemployment is also caused by failing firms, poor job performance, or obsolete skills.  This may also be caused by workers who will quit their jobs in order to move to different parts of the country.

Frictional unemployment can be seen as a transaction cost of trying to find a new job; it is the result of imperfect information on available jobs. For instance, a case of frictional unemployment would be a college student quitting their fast-food restaurant job to get ready to find a job in their field after graduation. Unlike structural unemployment this process would not be long due to skills the college graduate has to offer a potential firm.

Cyclical Unemployment

Unemployment that is attributed to economic contraction is called cyclical unemployment. The economy has the capacity to create jobs which increases economic growth. Therefore, an expanding economy typically has lower levels of unemployment. On the other hand, according to cyclical unemployment an economy that is in a recession faces higher levels of unemployment. When this happens there are more unemployed workers than job openings due to the breakdown of the economy. This type of unemployment is heavily concentrated on the activity in the economy.  To understand this better take a look at our Business Cycles section.

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