Casey B. Mulligan makes a simple but plausible argument in his piece, “Eurosclerosis Comes to America.” He argues that job benefits may be a disincentive for the unemployed to go after the available jobs out there. He also provides some graphical analysis to show that while unemployment has been rising, the number of open positions has been rising as well.
I admit that I cannot fully accept the argument, mainly on humanitarian grounds. I do agree overall that Americans have not been expressing our fabled get-up-and-go attitude toward seeking opportunity. The attitude may be more psychological and steepened in a disconnect between our inventory of skills and the demands of available positions; an argument I have heard repeatedly from the business community.