The Obama Pattern: Workforce Shrinks, So Unemployment Drops

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We write these stories just about every month: the Administration of President Barack Obama finds the silver lining in a dismal monthly jobs report by focusing on a happy-sounding number while ignoring the broader, disturbing trend.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its June employment figures this week, and the unemployment rate has dropped. Yet, like clockwork, that statistic has been accompanied by another — one that’s far more indicative of the health of the U.S. labor force. It’s not so much that more people are getting jobs; it’s that fewer people are looking for them.

The total number of people who are seeking employment has been decimated in the Obama recovery, with a record-breaking 92,120,000 Americans who, by the BLS’s definition, have dropped out of the labor force. That leaves the participation rate among working-age Americans stranded, for yet another month, at the lowest level it’s seen in four decades: 62.8 percent. The figure reflects a one-month increase in dropouts from the labor force of 111,000.

The BLS considers Americans age 16 and older who have not sought employment in the past four weeks, during any period, to have dropped out of the labor force for that period.

Obama touted what good news there was to be gleaned from the June report, the addition of 288,000 jobs (or 177,000 jobs, if you factor in the dropouts), saying the U.S. has “not seen more consistent job growth since the ’90s.”

But there’s also this: “At no time during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, did such a small percentage of the civilian non-institutional population either hold a job or at least actively seek one,” observed CNS News in its report on the data.

There are about 314 million people living in the U.S., and some 268 million of them are of working age. But of that 268 million, there are 92,120,000 who aren’t actively looking for work. That’s a ratio of 34.4 percent non-employment — a condition in which more than one-third of people who are able to work not only aren’t working, but they either aren’t trying to find a job or they’ve simply given up.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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