Not surprisingly, there is no more important issue to me than the economy. Not only are there obvious benefits to growth in terms of material comforts, but it is also conducive to the creation of a society in which people are tolerant, generous, and cooperative. When folks struggle, they are prone to feeling angry and suspicious. Those experiencing joblessness become demoralized as they try to deal with the loss of control over their lives and their inability to provide for loved ones. This is hardly an environment in which it is easy to resolve political and social conflict. Things are contentious enough as it is.
This isn’t just speculation on my part. There is a long-standing scientific literature studying the non-monetary cost of unemployment. To cite just one recent paper:
For the unemployed, the nonpecuniary costs of unemployment are several times as large as those resulting from lower incomes, while the indirect effect at the population level is 15 times as large. For those who are still employed, a one percentage point increase in local unemployment has an impact on well-being roughly equivalent to a 4% decline in household income (Helliwell, John F., and Haifang Huang. “New measures of the costs of unemployment: Evidence from the subjective well being of 3.3 million Americans.” Economic Inquiry 52.4 (2014).
What that says in very scholarly language is that there is an extremely large negative impact above and beyond the loss of income not only to those without jobs, but even those who are still employed. Chronic unemployment and underemployment breed resentment and depression.