But there is another reason high unemployment may excite investors. Current layoffs are likely, for many workers, to be permanent. A recent report that productivity-work output per worker-was up at a 9.55 annual rate in the Third Quarter, is an indication that those companies that haven't shut down operations are making or doing more with fewer workers. That kind of thing happens in recessions, because as joblessness gets worse, those workers who still have jobs become more docile and are willing to be worked harder by management. Of course, you get more on-the-job injuries, more stress-related illness, etc. along with that kind of speed-up, but over the shorter term, it looks good on the books if you're cranking out more product with a lower payroll.
Of course, longer term, this is all a disaster, not just for laid-off and afraid-to-be-laid-off workers, but for the country as a whole. You can't rebuild an economy with more than one-in-ten workers unemployed. And remember, that's just the people who are our of a job and still looking for one; it doesn't count those who have been out of work for so long, or who work in professions that are so gone (like construction or maybe manufacturing Saturns) that they've just given up looking, or those who have taken part-time jobs in ice-cream parlors or selling apples to survive but who want to be fully employed again. If you add those people into the mix (which is the way the US used to count unemployment until the 1980s), you get an unemployment rate closer to 20%, or one in five! And you sure can't rebuild an economy with one in five workers unemployed.