Much attention has been paid to how New Grub Street represents the failures and successes of late-Victorian writers competing in the literary market of the 1880s. Such analyses clearly reveal Gissing's critique of the commercialization of literature and his sympathy for the precarious employment and poverty of authors whose opportunities to publish and earn a living depended on the mass appeal. But these interpretations do not take account of New Grub Street's participation in much wider contemporary concerns about impoverishment, particularly those generated from a growing worry about rising unemployment. This article addresses that gap by considering how New Grub Street responds to the discourse of unemployment and under-employment that comprised two main versions of the causes of worklessness and poverty. New Grub Street exploits an ideological fault line to demonstrate that social inequities lay at the heart of unemployment to unsettle assumptions about their causes.