Tags: workforce | immigrants | America | workers

The Ghost of Workers Past

By    |   Thursday, 19 March 2015 08:16 AM

Imagine organizing a National Labor Day Parade where every American worker was a participant. It would be quite an event, except that only 62.8 percent of available workers are in the labor force — the lowest in 37 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In December 2014, the civilian labor force dropped from 155.3 million to 154.9 million, the lowest rate since 1978.

Not a very good parade — especially to the more than 11 million people who have dropped out of the labor force under President Obama, either because they can't find a job or lack the skills for employment. They aren't even counted anymore in the unemployment figures.

Looking for black workers to join the parade? Well, African Americans have an unemployment rate almost double that of the overall population — estimated at 10.4 percent.

And watching on the sidelines would be about 56 million American women who are not in the workforce. And BLS estimates that with significant increases in the share of older women in the total population, the overall labor force participation rate for women is projected to slow down even further — to 57.1 percent in 2020.

The United States ranks 23rd globally in gender equality and ranks 17th among 22 industrialized countries in terms of labor force participation for women, according to an AFL-CIO blog.

If you want to see young people in the parade, there will be many missing. The July 2014 labor force participation rate for 16- to 24-year-old men was 63.2 percent, according to the BLS.

This clearly tells us, the American workforce is shrinking.

"Understanding why labor force participation has fallen is critically important to assessing the state of the economy. When millions of people would like to be employed, but have given up on finding work, the official unemployment rate understates the weakness of the labor market. It omits millions of potential workers who have become so discouraged that they have stopped job searching," writes James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation.

I have not included Hispanic participation in the U.S. workforce because pending legislation could impact these numbers — Obama's executive actions that would grant roughly 5 million illegal immigrants with Social Security numbers and work permits.

On top of this, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has proposed that illegal immigrants authorized to remain in the United States and receive work permits under Obama's recent executive actions would be able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit for past years they were not allowed to work in the country.

It doesn't take much imagination to predict what will happen when 5 million more workers enter the workforce. Workers who already have dropped out of the workforce surely will see no way to get back in.

Worse is that these workers are likely to accept lower wages, reducing wages for everyone else. Since many workers not in the workforce have dropped out because wages are already too low, the news coming out of Washington is even more discouraging.

A productive and fully engaged workforce is the key to revitalizing our economy and keeping us competitive globally.

Approximately one in four adults worldwide — or roughly 1.3 billion people — worked full time for an employer in 2013, according to Gallup. According to the payroll-to-employed index (workers paid by private industry and not the government), the U.S. ranked 10th, behind United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Bahrain, Sweden, Russia, Kuwait, Belarus, Israel and Latvia.

This is disappointing on so many levels.

Ironically, the Baby Boom generation that helped expand the workforce is now responsible for shrinking the workforce as they retire. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago expects the labor force participation rate will be lower in 2020 than it is today, regardless of how well the economy does.

Younger workers are sitting on the sidelines and postponing graduation because there aren't any jobs.

But the most ominous trend keeping Americans out of the workforce is that 8.8 million Americans are collecting disability benefits instead of working. And almost 47 million Americans have been collecting food stamps for at least 40 months.

This economy is not growing, good jobs aren't being created and a sense of hopelessness pervades the nation. We can't allow this to continue.

We need to have new leadership that creates an environment that will get people back in the workforce.

Millions of retired workers who worked hard their entire lives to help this nation become a superpower must be weeping that their contributions have been diminished by an administration that has turned its backs on America's proud tradition of hard work and sacrifice.

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Imagine organizing a National Labor Day Parade where every American worker was a participant. It would be quite an event, except that only 62.8 percent of available workers are in the labor force — the lowest in 37 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
workforce, immigrants, America, workers
Thursday, 19 March 2015 08:16 AM
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