For Raad Abdulsada, every day starts the same way. He wakes up at sunrise, heads to a busy, dusty corner in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood and waits for work.
Most days, the waiting is in vain.
"Maybe once a week I am hired," said the 31-year-old, his pink polo shirt and torn sweatpants stained with dirt. When he's lucky enough to get picked up, his compensation for a day of labor — usually construction work — is around 15,000 Iraqi dinars, or $13.
"I support a family of seven on this," Abdulsada said. "But for years I cannot get a steady job. So what else can I do? I have responsibilities. So I come here and wait."
Abdulsada's struggle is anything but rare here. Though precise figures don't exist, most approximations put unemployment across Iraq at between 30 percent and 60 percent. U.S. officials estimate that well over half of Iraqis who want to work can't find jobs.
Violence has dropped dramatically here in recent months. But to keep it that way, Iraqi and American officials agree, the country's soaring unemployment rate must come down. They say that if more Iraqis don't find work soon, people here will pay the cost in blood.