What explains the growing number of welfare-only recipients, an increase which does not correlate with economic cycles?

A rising tide may float all boats.  But a growing economy replaces inefficient businesses with more efficient businesses.  And some people lose their jobs when this happens.  They may find new jobs.  They may even find better jobs.  But this isn't guaranteed to happen.  In particular, people with narrow skills and limited educations find these transitions hard.  So do people with handicaps or chronic diseases. 

There have been some studies showing that new technologies in the US help some people in the middle class move up, but also cause some to move down as mid-skill jobs get replaced by machines operated by lower-skill workers.  This process can help low-skill workers move up economically, but it may not help people who've been living entirely on welfare benefits for a few years.

Here's an example of the side effects of economic progress:  Replacing photographic film with digital photography has been a good thing for most of society.  But it's been hard on people who had spent most of a career developing skills researching, developing, manufacturing, and selling photographic film.  About 20 years ago, Kodak employed 60,000 people in the Rochester area.  Now it employs about 10,000.

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