Discouraged Worker

Updated on January 25, 2024
Article byShrestha Ghosal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Discouraged Worker?

A discouraged worker is an individual who has given up actively searching for employment opportunities due to a lack of suitable job prospects or after encountering continuous rejections. Consequentially, they have withdrawn from the labor force and are no longer a part of the official unemployment statistics, as they are not actively looking for work.

Discouraged Workers

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The discouraged workers in economics are usually experienced job seekers who have become disheartened due to repeated rejections and seemingly futile efforts to secure employment. They often feel hopeless and declining self-confidence, which keeps them trapped in a cycle of unemployment.

Key Takeaways

  • A discouraged worker is an individual who has actively stopped engaging in job-seeking activities due to a lack of suitable employment opportunities or because they faced repeated rejections in the jobs they applied for.
  • These workers are not a part of the unemployment rate as they are not actively looking for work. Moreover, they have withdrawn from the labor force.
  • Several factors contribute to a worker’s discouragement, including a lack of openings in a particular domain or frequent technological development that could create a mismatch between the skills a worker acquires and the skills the industry demands.

Discouraged Worker Explained

A discouraged worker is an individual who has essentially given up on searching for employment opportunities and has withdrawn from the labor force. The discouraged workers in economics are individuals who faced repeated rejections or were unable to find suitable job prospects, so they stopped participating in job-seeking activities. They are not considered in the official unemployment statistics as they are no longer a part of the active job-seeking population.

These workers experience a deep sense of disappointment and hopelessness. They have experienced prolonged periods of unemployment that negatively impacted their motivation and self-confidence. They may have encountered continuous rejections despite applying for several jobs and attending numerous interviews due to a lack of job openings or appropriate skills. Over time, this ongoing struggle may take a toll on their mental well-being, leading them to permanently withdraw from searching for work.

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Worker Discouragement Causes

The discouraged workers’ causes are as follows:

  • When individuals experience unemployment for long periods despite actively searching for jobs, they may become disheartened, negatively impacting their motivation and self-confidence.
  • There might be a scarcity of employment opportunities in specific industries and regions. If individuals face few or no available job opportunities in their domain, they may start to lose hope and withdraw from the job market.
  • One of the prime discouraged workers causes is the frequent technological advancements. Such progress may result in changing job requirements, resulting in a mismatch between the skills employers demand and job seekers possess. Therefore, individuals applying for jobs may get rejected repeatedly, discouraging them from pursuing employment.
  • Employment opportunities often decline during economic recession or economic downturns, due to which there is cut-throat competition for limited opportunities. It could result in high unemployment rates, which cause individuals to feel discouraged and give up on their job-seeking activities.
  • Individuals may avoid pursuing employment due to personal circumstances, including health issues and family responsibilities. These challenges may hinder an individual’s job search, resulting in a sense of discouragement.
  • Insufficient support and limited access to resources like skill training programs, career counseling, or networking opportunities can restrict an individual’s efforts to secure a suitable job. They may struggle to navigate the job market effectively without the necessary guidance, due to which they may eventually become discouraged.


Let us consider a few examples:

Example #1

Suppose Sam is an individual who has been searching for a job for several months. He did not find any success as he got rejected after applying for several jobs and attending many job interviews. Eventually, Sam started to feel discouraged and lost confidence. He started doubting the value of his educational qualifications and his acquired skills.

Over time, Sam gradually stopped actively looking for job opportunities. He no longer applied for vacant positions or reached out to potential employers. Sam turned into a discouraged worker and withdrew from the labor force. This is an example of a discouraged worker.

Example #2

In the United States, unemployment has remained relatively low over 2022, despite the possibility of an upcoming recession. However, the low employment rate could result from low labor participation. Since December 2021, the official unemployment rate in the US has dropped from 3.9% to 3.5%.

Moreover, labor force participation began to fall in 1990. It fell from 63.3% in February 2020 to 60.1% in April 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. Even though it has recovered later, labor force participation continues to remain below 62.5%. This is another example of a discouraged worker.


The discouraged workers’ effects are as follows:

  • These workers signify a loss in human capital and potential productivity. Their skills and talents remain untapped, which results in a waste of valuable resources, due to which economic output may be reduced, impeding economic growth.
  • Such workers are a part of the official unemployment statistics, which can reduce the reported unemployment rates. It may provide a misleading picture of the job market’s actual state and make it difficult for policymakers to analyze employment trends accurately. Furthermore, it could prevent them from implementing effective policies and interventions.
  • One of the significant discouraged worker effects is that this experience can negatively impact an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. It may lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression.
  • They may face social isolation and start to disengage from their communities. The financial strain from staying unemployed for a prolonged may lead to increased poverty and dependence on social welfare programs. Thus, it can burden families, communities, and public resources.

Discouraged Worker vs Unemployed

The differences are as follows:

  • Discouraged Worker: These workers have given up actively seeking jobs due to a lack of appropriate job prospects or after facing rejections. They have withdrawn from the labor force and are not a part of the official unemployment statistics. This exclusion can result in a disparity between the reported unemployment rate and the individuals who are able and willing to work but have become discouraged.
  • Unemployed: Unemployed individuals are actively seeking employment and are available for work. They may have lost their job recently, finished their education or skill training, or entered the job market as a fresher without any experience. They are a part of the official unemployment statistics, which is a measure of the number of people who are jobless and actively seeking employment.

Difference Between Marginally Attached And Discouraged Worker

 The differences are:

  • Marginally Attached Worker: These workers are willing and able to work but have not actively searched for employment in the past four weeks. They may have searched for jobs in the past year but are not presently engaged in job-seeking activities. Such workers are available for work and would accept a job if offered, but they are not actively pursuing employment.
  • Discouraged Worker: These workers have stopped actively seeking jobs because they cannot find suitable employment opportunities. They have withdrawn from the workforce effectively as they are no longer looking for work. These workers are not included in the official unemployment statistics. They are a subset of marginally attached workers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are discouraged workers part of the labor force?

No, these workers are not the labor force’s part. They are individuals who stopped actively seeking employment, due to which they are not included in official labor force statistics. The labor force comprises either employed individuals or those actively looking for jobs. However, these workers are available for work but have stopped searching for job opportunities due to a lack of suitable employment offers.

2. Are discouraged workers included in the unemployment rate?

No, such workers are not included in the unemployment rate estimation in the official labor market statistics. They are individuals who want to work and are available for employment. However, they have given up actively seeking employment because they could not find suitable jobs. Therefore, they are not classified as unemployed. The official unemployment rate considers individuals actively searching for jobs because they are unemployed.

3. How to calculate the unemployment rate with discouraged workers?

Estimating these workers includes a measure known as the U-6 unemployment rate. The U-6 rate contains the officially unemployed and marginally attached workers, including these workers. For calculating the U-6 unemployment rate, the total number of unemployed people, marginally attached workers, and part-time employed individuals are added together. The resulting figure is then divided by the labor force. The final percentage represents the U-6 unemployment rate.

This article has been a guide to what is Discouraged Worker. We explain its effects, comparison with unemployed and marginally attached workers, causes, & examples. You may also find some useful articles here –

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