Because jobs can serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and communities, they are the most important part of a morally functioning economy. Workers dropping out of the labor force because they’ve grown discouraged is therefore one of the most pressing moral and economic issues in America today. Sadly, it is also one of the most overlooked.
Today, the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released some stats showing the shocking decline in the male participation in the labor force, particularly men between the ages of 25-54:
According to the committee members:
There are currently 61.1 million American men in their prime working years, age 25–54. 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.
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. In short, there is an unprecedented supply of working-age Americans who do not hold jobs.
James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee are three of the most prominent economists today, and in Common Sense Economics they show us why economic understanding is an essential ingredient for life in today's society.