An average, record 56 million working age adults aged 16 to 64 are not in the labor force in 2016, an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.
That is to say, they are neither working nor looking for work.
The non-participating 56 million accounts for 27.1 percent of the working age population — close to the level in 1981 when women were still entering the work force.
The increase in non-participation by working age adults — excluding seniors — began in 1998, right around the time the economy started slowing down.
The economy has not grown above an inflation-adjusted 4 percent since 2000, and not above 3 percent since 2005 according to data compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. As the economy slowed down, the number of working aged, able-bodied adults leaving the labor force has unquestionably increased.
All told, if the labor participation rate for 16 to 64 year olds had remained where it was in the late 1990s, an additional 10 million people would be working and looking for work. Instead, they’ve given up — because work is much scarcer.
So, what went wrong?
That is about the time we began outsourcing production in earnest, with 2000 marking the year Congress granted China permanent normal trade relations.
Half of that, about 5 million, is the number of manufacturing jobs that have been lost in the same timeframe.
Meaning, the promise of jobs to replace those shipped overseas via massive trade deals never materialized. Instead, it’s been a steady drain on our economy — and the current generation of Americans looking to get ahead.
So, naturally, President Barack Obama and Congress are considering passing another big trade agreement, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership — in a lame duck session of Congress after the elections have happened.
The American people will be unable to hold members accountable for their votes, a number of whom will be retiring or defeated in November. But they will still be voting to ship more American jobs overseas, indifferent or oblivious to the plight of their own constituents.
The only question is, after years of acquiescing on Obamacare, executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and Planned Parenthood is whether Congress has the guts to finally tell President Obama no.