Who Is Dropping Out Of The Labor Force, and Why?By Diana Furchtgott-Roth
Although many economic indicators are heading in a positive direction, last week's December jobs report highlighted the problem of the declining labor force participation rate, the percentage of people aged 16 and over who choose to work or look for work.
The labor force participation rate moved back to 62.8 percent from its November level of 63 percent. In 2007, before the recession, 66 percent of Americans were in the labor force. Today's levels are equivalent to 1978, before the Reagan Revolution and the movement of women into the labor force during the 1980s.
Who is dropping out, and why?
A popular view is that labor force participation is declining because older people are retiring. But since 2000 the labor force participation rates of workers 55 and over have been rising steadily, and the labor force participation rates of workers between 16 and 54 have been declining.
What is clear is that the workforce is aging. Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, 2 million fewer Americans are employed. The 25 to 54 age group has seen a decline in employment of 6 million workers. The 55+ age group, in contrast, has seen an increase in employment of 4.8 million workers. Employment in the 16 to 24 group is down by 1.8 million.