Structural unemployment is a type of unemployment that occurs to workers who are displaced by a change in marketplace needs. When the computer industry began its rapid rise, many workers were caught at a disadvantage. They did not learn the skills or did not already have them coming into the job market, which now demanded computer know-how. Unless these individuals learned the necessary new skills, they faced the possibility of structural unemployment.
Another instance where structural unemployment occurs concerns geography. During the 1970s, the automobile industry, concentrated in the Midwest, experienced a downturn. As a result, many in the auto labor force became unemployed. At the same time, the oil industry in Texas was experiencing a boom. Many workers unemployed in the Midwest and who also possessed skills that would benefit them in Texas chose to move West to take advantage of the economic opportunities available there.
The disparity between skills and/or labor may also be called mistmatch unemployment. Workers who are only familiar with word processing can not fill job vacancies for computer programmers. Technology and competition can also play a role in structural unemployment. The U.S. steel industry, which established itself during the nineteenth century, is at a disadvantage competing with the steel manufacturers in less developed nations, who benefit from the more recent development of their industry through the use of the latest technology.
Time spent learning the new skills demanded by the current job market can be consuming and, in addition, not all individuals are willing to pursue a job search in a new location. Thus, structural unemployment can be enduring.
See also: Seasonal Unemployment , Unemployment