Millions of Americans are off from work this Labor Day. But millions of others are off nearly every day because they have no job—or have given up looking for one.
"It's just a very tough job market now. There's no other way of putting it," said Daniel Opler, professor of history and a labor expert at the College of Mount St.Vincent.
"And the least skilled are in the toughest spot. It's a daunting task to find a job these days," he said.
According to a survey released last month by recruiting firm Express Employment Professionals—using Bureau of Labor Statistics data and its own findings—the number of Americans in the labor force, or those working or seeking a job, is at a 35-year low of 63.4 percent.
That translates into some 89.9 million Americans who are not working or seeking work.
This number might seem like a contradiction to the falling overall unemployment rate—from a high of 10 percent in October 2009 to a recent 7.4 percent in July.
But a big part of the decline is likely due to the millions who have taken themselves out of the job market, said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment.
"It's a tragedy so many people have given up looking for work, " he said. "It's older people and younger people that have in essence just thrown in the towel."
That's not to say there aren't jobs, said Funk, whose company's survey cited hard-to-fill positions like welders, machinists, engineers, IT professionals and even accountants and office managers.
"There's a skills gap for many people," he said. "We have hundreds of job openings but we can't find the people to fill them. They just don't have the training."
"We're finding even at entry levels, there's a mismatch of skills out there," said Sandy Mazur, a division president of staffing firm Spherion.
"I think we have to do more with training issues," she said. "It's becoming more difficult to find people with the right skills employers want."