KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Among the sons and daughters of the suburbs and the country club set, the recession turned good times to bad.

Their less-accomplished peers, who didn’t make it through college or who never even made it to campus, have seen dismal prospects go from bad to awful.

These are the workers for whom the misery of the recession comes in torrents.

In better times “they’d get the worst jobs,” said John Hornbeck of Episcopal Community Services in Kansas City. “Now the barrier is just a flat-out lack of jobs, period.”

Certainly millions of the young and lightly educated find ways to make a living at the menial end of the job market. But the struggles of those who can’t get work pose an extra burden for the rest of us — in the form of fewer people paying taxes, more needing government handouts and, perhaps, a threat of growing crime.

“These people run through their unemployment. Then some of them get into legal trouble,” said Christopher Jencks, who studies poverty issues at Harvard University. “Some end up stealing stuff, overdose on drugs. All kinds of bad stuff.

“Society picks up not all of the broken glass, but some of it. And some of it gets stuck in our feet. We share the cost with the victims.”

At the bottom of the recession in 2009, unemployment swelled to about 10 percent. But for blue-collar folks, the rate was closer to 17 percent.

For a less definable class of young people who merely aspire to blue-collar work, the buzz-kill economy looks especially bleak.

This group lacks both formal training and the so-called soft skills — things like the ability to look a boss in the eye or the understanding that they should show up at 8:50 for a job that starts at 9 a.m., not 9ish.

They make up a disproportionate number of the 6.8 million Americans who aren’t just unemployed but who have been on the hunt for work for a year or longer. The previous high for the long-term unemployed, since the number was first tracked in 1948, was 3 million during the dreary days of the early 1980s.

“The old manufacturing economy honed physical skills such as lifting and manual dexterity,” wrote Richard Florida in “The Great Reset.”

“But two sets of skills matter more now: analytical skills and social intelligence skills.”

The long-term jobless rate ignores those who’ve taken unending job rejections as a sign simply to stop asking.

“We hear they just need to pick themselves up and get a job,” said Dennis Chapman, the development director at City Union Mission in Kansas City. “That’s easier said than done.”

One study in Missouri found that each high school dropout costs the state $4,000 a year in lost taxes and higher Medicaid and prison costs.

Another estimated that the U.S. economy would miss out on $335 billion in lifetime earnings compared with what it would reap had the high school dropouts of 2009 earned their diplomas.

Jencks, the Harvard poverty scholar, is quick to point out that experts have yet to find a consensus on whether rising joblessness cranks up crime rates. For the most accurately tracked crimes like murder, the correlation is weak. Lesser crimes are tracked less closely, but as Jencks observes, “If you look at people in trouble with the law, an awful lot of them are out of work.”

More critically, Jencks said, is that those at the bottom in an extended recession may be so cut off from a work-a-day existence that they won’t bounce back even when the job market does.

Statistics show they tend to delay marriage but not children. So this downturn might amp up the number of single moms who, on average, are more likely to lean on their families and the government to pay for rent and food.

At a key time in their lives, these would-be workers aren’t developing work habits. And they’re not making the connections to the mainstream of society they’ll need to achieve independence. They risk, Jencks said, slipping into a permanent situation that doesn’t fit with any American sense of success.

“After having been rejected 25 times, it gets hard to make the 26th call,” he said. “They’re the people who would have got factory jobs years ago. But they may be in danger of falling out of touch with the rest of us.”