Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Working Wounded

The most recent federal government numbers indicate that there are 9.3 million unemployed workers in the United States.

That compares to 11.3 million unemployed workers just before President Obama took office. That's the good news.

However, there are 92.6 million working-age Americans not currently in the labor force.  These include students, stay-at-home parents, early retirees and those too discouraged to look for work. They do not get counted in the workforce numbers that are used to calculate the unemployment number.

In December, 2008 that number was 80.4 million. Therefore, in the last four years the number of Americans that are not in the workforce has increased by 12 million!

Here are the numbers of working-age Americans not currently working as of September 30 for the last seven years.

2008     79.8 million
2009     82.5 million
2010     84.4 million
2011      86.0 million
2012      88.8 million
2013      90.7 million
2014      92.6 million

To put this in perspective, about as many Americans have left the workforce since 2008 as we saw during the entire 25-year period from 1975-2000.

Here are the unemployment numbers for the same period.

2008       9.5 million
2009      15.0 million
2010       14.6 million
2011       13.9 million
2012       12.1 million
2013       11.2 million
2014         9.3 million

Therefore, compared to six years ago, the number of unemployed is 200,000 lower but the number of working-age Americans who are not working has increased by almost 13 million!

When you put the all the numbers together, we now have over 100 million working-age Americans who are not working.  And despite the improved unemployment rate, the number of those not working plus those officially considered unemployed has not fallen at all. In fact, it has stayed stubbornly right around 100 million over the last five years.

By contrast, there are about 146 million people working-78 million men and 68 million women.

Of the 146 million workers, over 27 million are working part-time.  This is about 3 million higher than the number of part-time workers before President Obama took office.

The labor participation rate (the number that are working compared to the assumed civilian labor force of people 16 years of age and over) has now dropped to 62.7.  This is the lowest percentage of people working since 1977.

The labor force participation for men was the lowest ever recorded at 69.1 in September, 2014.  In 1981 it was 77.0.  The labor participation rate for women in September, 2014 was 56.7.

I have written before that I am more concerned about the percentage of those employed than the percentage that are unemployed.  After all, there are bills to be paid in this country.  People need shelter, food, energy, medical care and other necessities.  The lower the percentage of those working, the greater the burden those working carry for everyone else.  It is a simple comparison of how many are in the wagon versus how many are pulling the wagon.

Look no further than the numbers below to see what I mean as to the numbers receiving various federal and state benefits.

Social Security beneficiaries                      47.4 million
Social Security disability                            14.3 million
Unemployment benefits                               2.4 million
Food Stamps                                                 46.5 million

In addition, there are 21.9 million Federal and state government employees that the taxpayers of this country support through various federal and state taxes.

It used to be that people voted their pocketbooks. I don't think that has changed.  However, it is getting increasingly difficult to discern which pocketbook we are talking about anymore. The pocketbook of the working taxpayer who is paying the bills or the pocketbook of the recipients of government's largesse using other people's money?

The one thing that is clear is that those working and those that want to work in this economy have been wounded by the the policies of the last few years. There are too many people who are either unemployed or underemployed. There are also an increasing number of people that are not working that have to be taken care of but those that are working through an increased tax and debt burden.

The numbers above tell the story. We are in the decade of the working wounded.

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