As many of his friends strug­gled to find jobs in 2009, Rand Ghayad, a PhD can­di­date in eco­nomics at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, decided to search for answers to explain why smart, edu­cated, and expe­ri­enced people remained out of work for so long, despite hun­dreds of thou­sands of job vacancies.

What he found after more than four years of research has chal­lenged con­ven­tional assump­tions about long-​​term unem­ploy­ment and shifted the national debate on what many ana­lysts and policy makers see as one of the most pressing prob­lems facing the US economy.

The Fed­eral Reserve Bank of Boston has pub­lished his work, and he has been cited by sev­eral influ­en­tial econ­o­mists, including Paul Krugman, the New York Times colum­nist and Nobel lau­reate. And at a recent con­fer­ence of top labor econ­o­mists in Wash­ington, Ghayad’s find­ings were the fre­quent topic of discussion.

You research some­thing for a very long time and you don’t know if it’s going to go some­where or not,” said Ghayad, 27, who expects to com­plete his degree at the end of the summer. “I was very lucky.”

Four years after the last reces­sion ended, nearly 4 mil­lion Amer­i­cans — roughly one-​​third of all unem­ployed — have been out of work for more than year. Tra­di­tion­ally, econ­o­mists have blamed long-​​term unem­ploy­ment on long-​​lasting job­less ben­e­fits that under­mine incen­tives to find work, citing Euro­pean nations where both exten­sive social safety nets and long-​​term unem­ploy­ment are entrenched.

Read the article at The Boston Globe →