Broadband use keeps the jobless from becoming discouraged and dropping out of the labor market, according to new research by three economists at the Phoenix Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank. The economists analyzed Census data to compare out-of-work people who were actively looking for jobs (those officially counted as unemployed) with those who had become discouraged and stopped looking. They found that broadband use at home or at public locations reduces defection from the labor market due to discouragement by more than 50 percent. Dialup Internet  use reduced  labor market discouragement by only about one-third.

Internet use may keep the unemployed involved in job search for several reasons, the authors say. In addition to providing information about relevant job openings, it may also help job seekers solve problems, such as transportation or child care, that were keeping them from finding employment. Finally, communicating on the Internet may help reduce the social isolation and depression that makes job search increasingly difficult.

The researchers conclude that public programs to bring broadband connections to public places, such as libraries, and programs to promote Internet use – both of which are components of the broadband stimulus program – may help keep the jobless active in job search and lead to more employment.