Saturday, April 5, 2014

Unusually Low Percentage Of Mid-Career Workers of Prime Working Age In Labor Force

From The Wall Street Journal, Opinion, "The Decline of Work: The employment ratio is stagnant even for Americans of prime working age:"
Workers Age 25-54 Employment Rate
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Many attribute the decline of work in America to the wave of Baby Boomers heading into retirement and the fact that the population at large is getting older. Studies show this is part of the story, though that is also a problem if those workers are retiring earlier because they lost a job and can't find a comparable one.

Yet the decline in work is also affecting those between the prime working ages of 25 and 54. The employment rate for those workers rose steadily in the postwar period, dipping during recessions but always returning to an upward climb. The nearby chart tracks the trend from 1980. The rate reached an all-time high in 1999 of 81.6% amid the dot-com boom, dipped in the early George W. Bush years, and was recovering until the recessionary collapse.

At 76.7% today, this measure of work has only recently returned to 2009 levels. That's roughly where it last hovered in 1984 and 1985 before climbing amid the Reagan growth surge. So after several years of 2% economic growth since 2009, the share of mid-career workers in their best earning years who are on the job is still historically and unusually low.

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