Why are fewer people looking for jobs?

This is also a topic at the White House, and economist No. 1 (for lack of a better designation), offered the following:

“All of the evidence on the upward trend in participation among older workers indicates that this is a positive development. The literature points to rising education, higher paying and less physically demanding jobs, increased attachment of older women to the labor force, and better health as the main forces responsible for this upward trend. Remarkably, more than a quarter of retirees will un-retire at some point, not due to financial necessity, but because they find work more rewarding and enjoyable than retirement. Some commentators have speculated that the increased participation of older workers has been driven by losses of wealth during the Great Recession, but the research that has investigated this finds that these declines in wealth were concentrated among the richest households and that the data show no impact on labor-market behavior. ”

No economic conversation, as I have discovered, is ever complete or salted with every grain of statistical context.

The numbers don’t lie about historic levels of long-term unemployment or involuntary part-time work. Discouragement among workers, particularly the young, is not merely anecdotal. It’s in the data. And older workers are retiring, and that’s a big chunk of the decline in LFPR. How big a chunk? The data is opaque and economists genuinely differ.