Historically weak recovery

September 19, 2013

The country has been slowly climbing out of the recession for many months, but the economic statistics that make headlines don’t tell the whole story.

Possibly the most troubling aspect of this historically weak recovery is the fact that the unemployment rate has fallen largely because of a drop in the number of people in the workforce.

According to a recent report, the percentage of adults who have a job or are looking for one, known as the labor-force participation rate, has dropped to a 34-year low. A particularly worrisome aspect is that the rate has fallen almost as much among 25- to 54-year-olds, who should be in their peak working years, as among the overall adult population. The first wave of retiring baby boomers plays just a small role; many in that age group actually are delaying retirement.

The data are concerning not just as a sign that younger people aren’t working, and therefore aren’t moving into their own homes, buying cars and generally getting on with adult life. Without them in the workforce, there will be even fewer younger workers to pay for the Social Security of retiring baby boomers. …

The short-term damage for individuals is bad enough, when they can’t find jobs.

But the larger issue is what happens to the nation’s economy and the government’s fiscal situation if long-term joblessness becomes a new normal.

— The Columbus Dispatch