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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Republicans Want People to Work Until They Drop

Why is the labor participation rate going down?  And is that a bad thing?  Is that also Obama's fault?

As the unemployment rate has started to decline, the Republicans now want to move the goalposts.  They want to count unemployment using the U-6 underemployment rate instead of the U-3 unemployment rate that has been used forever.  (More about this later.)   

And they want to say that people who are "not in the labor force" are really "unemployed".  Of course, most of those people "not in the labor force" are retired, in school, home with children, disabled.  The Republicans haven't yet managed to keep people from retiring, so they are now complaining about the declining "labor participation rate".

Here's what the labor participation rate graph (from the BLS website) looks like over the last 60 years:

Labor Participation Rate 1948 to present
Labor Participation Rate in the U.S. 1948 to present

This article at the National Journal talks about a poll in which people discuss whether or not they think they are better off than they were a year ago and whether or not they think they will be better off a year from now.  

Of course, many of the comments start with, "I'll be much better off when Obama is out of the White House." I did address some of those people, and you can see some of my comments down below the article.  But here is one comment by "Mojo the Awkward" that centers on the labor participation rate that I was easily able to debunk:

Here's a cute factoid. The month Obama took office, the labor force declined by more than 700,000. The average over the previous months was around 25,000.
The number of Americans 'not in the labor force' had risen steadily under Bush (although Bush did also create millions of net jobs - six million in his second term, which is rather more impressive than Obama's net 129,000 to date) - but the rate of its increase became steeper the day Obama was sworn in and has kept up that accelerated pace since (which is why there are now nearly 90 million Americans 'not in the labor force' but conveniently omitted from headline unemployment stats).
(I did not address his comments about Bush in my reply.  But I do talk about comparisons between Bush and Obama, including this poster's assertions, HERE, in the article "Private Sector Job Growth Higher Under Obama than Bush?") 

My reply to this person: 
Hard to imagine where people get their numbers.. None of this stuff is hard to find.
Do you know what the "labor force" is?  If not, I would suggest that you look it up.  In any case, the average labor force throughout 2008 was about 140,000 more than the average throughout 2009.  
What is the labor force participation rate anyway? 
The number "not in the labor force", while impacted by economic factors, is mostly influenced by demographics.  The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the number of people in the "civilian non-institutional population 16+" who are either working or actively looking for work.  The people who are not either working nor actively looking for work are "not in the labor force".  
The average labor force participation started to take off in the late 60's/early 70's, and it peaked at 67.1% in Clinton's second term.
It's gone down for many reasons, mostly due to demographics.  We've added 29,000,000 people to our "civilian non-institutional population 16+" since January 2001, and a whopping 21,600,000 of them are people who are 55 or over.  Since the Republicans haven't found a way (yet) of forcing us to work until we keel over, people 55+ are actually STILL retiring.  
Not only do the despicable Republicans want to cut benefits that might help older people retire, now they want to play with employment statistics and count seniors among the "unemployed" as well, as you attempted to do.  Why don't you and other Republican supporters think that people, after decades of working, deserve to retire while they are in decent health and can enjoy their golden years?  And the simple fact that most older people can still manage to retire (perhaps because the stock market is back up?) is somehow used AGAINST Obama?
Something else is happening that you Republican supporters might not be aware of:  The age at which the Baby Boomers can retire with full Social Security is now 66.   The vanguard of the Baby Boomers, people born in 1946, turn 66 this year.  We can expect that a hundred or two hundred thousands of such people are going to be exiting the labor force each month this year.. and each month for years ahead.
A lower labor participation rate isn't necessarily a bad thing. 
Let's be honest:  As much as the Republicans want to blame Obama for the falling labor participation rate,  a lower labor participation rate isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Back in the heyday of unions and high marginal tax rates, the labor participation rate was low as families could actually survive on ONE salary.  One parent, usually Mom, could actually stay home with the kids.  
The labor participation rate among older people went down around the time that Medicare was established.  Not a bad thing..  People didn't have to hang onto their jobs until they dropped to maintain medical insurance.  A lower labor participation rate also means that kids can go to and stay in school, high school or college, and many of them don't HAVE to work.  They can concentrate on their studies at least during the school year, which, as a parent and teacher, I always felt was a good thing. 
And we do ask people who are "not in the labor force" if they want to work (but haven't looked for some reason).  93% of them don't want to work.  Among people 55+, that number is even higher.  About 97% of those people do not want to work.
But you and other Republicans think it is a bad thing that people who want to retire can still retire.  
O.K., O.K., I know that complaining about the labor force participation rate is not the same as telling old people that they should work until they drop.  But if you are going to count an 80 year old Grandpa who hasn't worked for 20
years as "unemployed", well.. what's the connotation of "unemployed"?

In any event, will the original poster reply to me?  So far only crickets. 

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