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The Obamaconomy: No Room for New Workers (Except Back Home with Mom and Dad)

February 11, 2013

Tomorrow, the President will describe the state of the union, including the state of the economy for workers and families.  Americans are likely to hear more of the same from recent years – how Administration policies (1) laid a new foundation for future growth, (2) saved or created millions of jobs, and even (3) prevented another Depression.  Despite the lofty rhetoric, however, the actual employment experience of millions of Americans still, in a word, stinks.    
It’s not hard to see why.  Even as Baby Boomers head into retirement, the working age population of the United States continues to grow.  If America had a strong, healthy economy there would be jobs for these new workers.  But that’s not the Obamaconomy.  As the table below reflects, for every 100 new working-age individuals in the past four years, the number of people dropping out of the labor force has equaled 102 people.  In short, more working-age people are exiting than entering the workforce.  And compared to January 2009, when the Administration said the economy was “in free fall,” working-age people in January 2013 saw a smaller workforce, fewer people employed, and more unemployed.  All nearly four full years after Democrats’ vaunted trillion-dollar stimulus plan:

  January 2009 January 2013  Change
Working-Age Americans 197.062 million
201.939 million
4.877 million
 Not in Labor Force 50.118 million 55.109 million 4.991 million

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Household Survey, not seasonally adjusted data for individuals aged 16-64.

Not surprisingly, certain groups have suffered more than others, starting with younger workers.  An MIT study found that the median household income for those between ages 25 and 34 dropped a staggering 8.9 percent between June 2009 and June 2012 – after the recession officially ended and thus during the “Obama recovery.”  A Harvard study notes that of those under age 30 just 62 percent are currently working, and of those “half are toiling at part-time jobs.”  Not surprisingly, these younger workers are experiencing elevated levels of stress and depression.  One reason might be because, as the chart below displays, a rapidly rising share of young adults between ages 18 and 34 are still living with their parents.  

Source: Current Population Survey Data on Families and Living Arrangements,
Table A2 (Family Status And Household Relationship Of People 15 Years And Over, By Marital Status, Age, And Sex)