"This large mass of the long-term unemployed and low-skilled workers is not going to go away," Ohanian says. "These people are not going to become reengaged in the workforce unless they retrain."
Room for growth. In past downturns when many jobs were lost, many people looked to local and state governments to provide employment. In this recession, that hasn't been the case.
"Many workers would look to government employment as a source for jobs, but with so many states under fiscal pressure, those jobs are gone," Ohanian says.
But there are areas where employment prospects are improving. Jobs in healthcare, such as nurses and rehabilitation assistants, are plentiful. The energy sector is also expanding. The demand for green energy technologies is growing, as is the natural gas exploration industry. Information technology professionals are also in high demand.
Gaining the skills to compete for these jobs is the key to leveling the playing field between those without college degree and those with a college education, Ohanian says. If laid-off workers do not commit to acquiring new skills, Ohanian warns that this economic recovery would lead to a "sharp demarcation in American society."
Corrected on 01/19/2012: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Thomas Donohue.