Policy: Labor

Record number of working-age men are not working

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Labor,Economy,Unemployment

More than 10 million working-age men are not working, and the majority of them are not looking for work, according to a congressional analysis of Labor Department statistics that provides context for the decreasing official unemployment rate.

The number of men out of the labor force is higher than it has ever been since records began being kept in 1955.

"There are currently 61.1 million American men in their prime working years, age 25-54," the Senate Budget Committee Republicans report said. "A staggering 1 in 8 such men are not in the labor force at all, meaning they are neither working nor looking for work. This is an all-time high dating back to when records were first kept in 1955. An additional 2.9 million men are in the labor force but not employed (i.e., they would work if they could find a job). A total of 10.2 million individuals in this cohort, therefore, are not holding jobs in the U.S. economy today. There are also nearly 3 million more men in this age group not working today than there were before the recession began."

The number of working-age men out of the workforce makes the economy look better than it is because of the methodology used by the Labor Department when calculating the unemployment rate.

"Although defenders of the current economy attribute shrinking labor force participation to the increasing pace of retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, these new statistics above confirm a trend that Barron's recently diagnosed: 'The ratio of those over 55 in the workforce actually ticked up'--in other words, older Americans are being forced to return to work in a poor economy to make ends meet while many younger Americans simply aren't working at all," the Republican analysis continued. "In short, there is an unprecedented supply of working-age Americans who do not hold jobs."

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