If a person (say a low-paid computer programmer) takes home $3,000 a month at their job, while owing $1,200 a month on a mortgage before being laid off, they might collect $1,600 a month in unemployment benefits — barely enough to live on. (Wages, the cost-of-living, and jobless benefits vary in different regions, so this is only an example).
When this laid-off person is looking for a job, at first they will look for one paying AT LEAST what they previously earned in an attempt to maintain their status quo, before gradually lowering their standards, until finally accepting a job that pays AT LEAST what unemployment benefits pays (barely enough to survive on).
But when someone gets laid off (especially right away), they won't take the first job they find paying LESS than unemployment benefits (say $7.25 an hour) — because, even at full-time, it wouldn't be near enough to pay their mortgage, let alone leave them with enough left over to pay for food or utilities.
But when they are forced to, they would have to abandon their home, and despite what skills they might have, will have to take a much lower-paying job (maybe the computer programmer will be working as a fast-food worker), and maybe they will have to move back home with their parents — or into a one-room weekly motel rental. (And if they have a spouse and kids, that could be pretty darn crowded.
They'd also have to apply for food stamps. But some politicians want to cut unemployment benefits — and they also want to cut food stamps.
In the interim, the job that the computer programmer lost (while making $3,000 a month) might be going to someone younger who is willing to work for less; or the job is given to an H-1B worker (also willing to work for less); or the job is filled by a temp worker (earning less); or is filled by two part-time workers (also earning less); or the job is permanently eliminated, being offshored to China (to someone else who is willing to work for less.)
Meanwhile, as wages have stagnated (or declined in real dollars) in the U.S. over the past 30 years (as the U.S. middle-class has declined), it's being reported that millions have "left" the labor force, even though they were really "forced" out. The " job creators" claim it's because American workers "lack the necessary skills". Some say the labor market has a "skills mismatch". The economists say we have "job polarization" and/or "secular stagnation". The politicians just say we have a lot of "lazy slackers" who don't want to work any more. (I don't think anyone knows for sure. It's probably a combination of many things — but it's most probably just old fashioned greed by those at the top and their political enablers.)
The New York Times reports that for the entirety of 2014, U.S. the economy grew at a rate of 2.4 percent rate. Are the unemployed and under-paid to blame for that? Whereas, The Wall Street Journal reported China's economy expanded 7.4% in 2014 — the slowest in decades! But Bloomberg reports that China's GDP could be much higher!
China's economy has already overtaken the U.S. to be the world's largest economy — lifting 500,000 of their people into the middle-class. And by 2022, China could have over 630 million, while the U.S. middle-class continues to decline. But many of our political leaders don't care — so long as we have less lazy slackers on the government dole collecting unemployment benefits. That seems to be their number one concern, not creating jobs --- or jobs that pay a living wage.
Our middle-class has declined because we lack jobs — and because, of the jobs that we do have, a great many don't pay living wages. But if the job creators gave American workers a raise, they would have to buy one less mansion, a shorter yacht and a smaller private jet.