2006 to 2016 6%
1996 to 2006: 15%
1986 to 1996: 20%
1976 to 1986: 26%
1966 to 1976: 26%
1956 to 1966: 20%
1946 to 1956: 30%
Participating in the Labor Force (working or looking for a job) The overall rate of participation is below where it was in 2000. The participation rate of women tapered off around 2000, fell in the recession and has not come back yet. Men's rate has been on a long decline that only grew steeper in the Great Recession. Part of the decline comes because we have more people of retirement age. But much of it has to do with lousy job markets, and, perhaps, with the expansion of disability benefits. For prime-age males (ages 25 to 54), the labor force participation rate has fallen from 97% in 1948 to 89% in 2016.
Some non-participants are in deindustrialized areas. They lost jobs due to plant closures and job exports. Some of these people did not move to regions with more jobs because they felt too old and too rooted to move; because they could not sell their homes except at a big loss; or because they weren't convinced there were enough jobs somewhere else. Some have become hooked on opioids and they are killing themselves.
Too Many Numbers? Here's the Big Take-away In most areas discussed above we are doing better, but in every area we have so much to do to reverse the impact of forty years of lousy wages, growing inequality, too much poverty, and not enough jobs. We shouldn't be talking in hyperbole about how we are not creating any jobs and how soon we won't have a country. We should talk like adults who understand the political task we face to get more good jobs, more equality, and less poverty. It won't happen if leaders are timid about supporting job creation and wage increases (Clinton), or if they talk like buffoons who pretend they can bully reality into what they want--and without pain for the richest 1% (We know who that is).
Frank Stricker is Emeritus Professor of History, California State University, Dominguez Hills. He has written about poverty and has just finished American Unemployment: A New History, Explanations, Remedies. He is a member of the National Jobs for All Coalition.