05.03.2013 1

Behind the Unemployment Headlines

By Rick Manning

The headlines read that the nation’s unemployment rate for April hit 7.5 percent.  But the real story behind the headline is that America is becoming a society of labor drop outs.  These charts using just released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics have been compiled to help you look behind the headlines at our nation’s unemployment problem.

Since Obama took office, the number of Americans considered to be eligible to participate in the workforce has increased by 10.4 million people.

But, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the workforce only increased by 1 million workers since President Obama took office.

The number of Americans reporting to the Bureau of Labor Statistics that they are not in the labor force has jumped by 9.5 million since Obama took office.

And as one would expect given the collapse of the number of people in the workforce, the labor participation rate has fallen dramatically as it reflects the difference between the non-institutionalized civilian population (working population) and the civilian labor force.

While the total number of Americans employed has risen by approximately 1.3 million, this is a stunningly low number when the total number of people who could have gotten a job exceeds 10.4 million.

A fact that is likely to go under reported is that if the Labor Participation Rate had remained steady throughout the Obama years, a full 161 million Americans would be in the workforce and the unemployment rate would be at 10.8 percent.

Happy talk coming from official Washington, D.C. aside, our nation’s economy remains mired in an unemployment crisis.  What is different in 2013 than in past times of high unemployment is that a combination of government services and programs significantly impacts the urgency of prospective workers actively seeking employment.

This dangerous side effect of government compassion may just be at the heart of the continuing decline of the percentage of Americans who are participating in the above ground economy.  As what was initially intended as a government safety net ensnares those who are in it, the incentive to take a job that is “beneath you” in order to get by is stripped away.

For young people this is particularly pernicious.  As a group that should be breaking away from dependence upon their parents in some cases merely transfers that dependence to the government, setting the stage for a lifetime of failing to strive and achieve their own personal American dream.

While the stage is set for this disastrous consequence, it will take a couple of years to learn how many of these young workers have been lost to the entitlement mentality that the expanded social safety net is breeding.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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