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Labor Force Participation Hits 34-Year Low

A comprehensive disaster like the Obama administration can’t be summed up in one statistic, but the one that comes closest is labor force participation. The combined effect of many misguided policies–Obamacare, ballooning spending, massive debt, tax increases, subsidizing of inefficient energy, anti-growth regulation, encouragement of food stamp fraud, and many more–has been to drive many millions of Americans out of the labor force. Express Employment Professionals has produced a white paper that illuminates this human tragedy:

The labor force participation rate is currently at a level not seen since the 1970s – 63.4 percent.

While the unemployment rate has steadily decreased from its high of 10.0 percent in October of 2009 to 7.4 percent in July of 2013, the percentage of Americans in the labor force has not risen. It has fallen about 2.7 percentage points since the onset of the latest recession.

This is a tragedy in the making, and its impact on the country has been underestimated. When Americans quit looking for work because they conclude not working beats working, America faces a significant problem.

This chart shows labor force participation from 2007 through 2013. Note that what has mostly driven Americans out of the labor force is not the recession that ended in 2009, but rather the Obama policies that followed:

President Obama’s policies have devastated all age groups, but the most heartbreaking impact is on the young:

Gallup reports that, “The lack of new hiring over the past several years…seems to have disproportionately reduced younger Americans’ ability to obtain full-time jobs.”

According to Gallup’s “Payroll to Population” measure, fewer Millennials were working full time in June of 2013 than in June of 2012, 2011, or 2010.

A recent 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 36 percent of the nation’s Millennials were still living with their parents.

Millions of older Americans have responded to the lack of job opportunities under Obamanomics by becoming “disabled.” Based on disability statistics, you would think that Americans have suddenly gotten sickly, or perhaps that we have been fighting a war:

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco also attributes the drop in [labor force participation] in part to the “increased use of some social benefit programs, notably disability insurance.”

Fourteen million Americans, including roughly 8.5 million former workers receive disability. In 2011, that included 4.6 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 64. These Americans are not included among the “unemployed.”

Fourteen million Americans on disability–that is more than the populations of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, Idaho and West Virginia, combined: every man, woman and child in 13 states. The exploding ranks of the “disabled” are due to the absence of jobs in Barack Obama’s economy. The human cost of this tragedy is incalculable.

The CEO of Express Employment Professionals, a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, says: “All indicators suggest this shift [out of the labor force] is not sustainable.” That’s putting it mildly. It is inherent in the human condition (the modern version of the human condition, anyway) that those of working age must produce enough to support children and the elderly as well as themselves. But when only 63% of those who are of working age are actually working, they must support not only the young and the old, but more than one-half of another person of working age who isn’t working. That is a recipe for not just economic, but social collapse. It is the most bitter legacy of the Obama years.

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