Joblessness during prime working years worst in 23 years

posted at 9:21 am on May 30, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Supporters of Barack Obama point to the overall jobless rate and its slow decline to argue that his economic policies have worked, and just need more time to bring back widespread prosperity.  Opponents point to U-6 numbers and the actual number of net jobs created in his term (hint: less than zero) to argue that Obamanomics has been a failure.  Who has the better argument?  Consider a new analysis from the Washington Post, which shows just how bad the jobs situation has been all along:

The proportion of Americans in their prime working years who have jobs is smaller than it has been at any time in the 23 years before the recession, according to federal statistics, reflecting the profound and lasting effects that the downturn has had on the nation’s economic prospects.

By this measure, the jobs situation has improved little in recent years. The percentage of workers between the ages of 25 and 54 who have jobs now stands at 75.7 percent, just a percentage point over what it was at the downturn’s worst, according to federal statistics.

Before the recession the proportion hovered at 80 percent.

This captures the “missing workers” phenomenon, which the topline jobless rate ignores, and shows how poorly this recovery has performed.  Even if one counts from the beginning of the recovery rather than from the beginning of Obama’s term, we have added 3.087 million private-sector jobs in the last 34 months, for an average of 90,079 jobs added per month — too low to keep up with population growth, which adds around 120,000 workforce-eligible adults each month.  We aren’t even really treading water but falling behind slightly over that period.

As Peter Whoriskey hints, this has significant long-term implications for the American economy and policy, emphasis mine:

During their prime years, Americans are supposed to be building careers and wealth to prepare for their retirement. Instead, as the indicator reveals, huge numbers are on the sidelines. …

The falloff has been sharpest for men, for whom the proportion had been on a slow decline before the recession. The percentage of prime-age men who are working is smaller now than it has been in any time before the recession, going all the way back to 1948, according to federal statistics. The proportion of prime-age [working] women is at a low not seen since 1988.

What happens when this lost generation hits retirement age?  They will not have acquired the wealth needed to retire; some of them might not have acquired the experience needed to support themselves as senior citizens in jobs, either.  We will be facing either a public-assistance bomb or a generation that spent half of its time dependent on their parents and the other half dependent on their children.  Likely it will be a mix of both.

Obamanomics is not working.  The mix of economic and regulatory policy of this administration has been toxic to job creation.  It’s time for a new direction.


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