Job Market Mystery: Where Are The Men?

By Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr)> In all, about 7 million men ages 25 to 54 are neither employed nor “available for work,” putting them outside the labor force. Their growing numbers worry and puzzle economists.

WASHINGTON

As the recovery from the Great Recession continues, job growth is solid and the labor force is growing at close to its fastest pace since 2000 because more unemployed workers are coming off the sidelines.

Still, the percentage of working-age Americans in the labor force remains stuck near its lowest level since the late 1970s.

Although retiring baby boomers are the main reason, there’s another troubling factor that experts predict won’t be solved by stronger economic growth.

Too many men in their prime don’t have a job and aren’t even looking for one. Experts trying to figure out the reasons are probing the roles of criminal background checks, painkillers and even video games.

In all, about 7 million men ages 25 to 54 are neither employed nor “available for work,” putting them outside the labor force. Their growing numbers worry and puzzle economists.

A little more than half of the men reported they were ill or disabled, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 14 percent are going to school. And about 20 percent said they were either retired or handling home responsibilities.

Economists said increased globalization and the decline in factory jobs has played a major role in pushing prime-age men, particularly those with less education, out of the workforce. But that doesn’t explain why the problem is worse in the U.S. than in most other economically advanced nations.

Researchers have pointed to some other potential explanations. Prime-age American men outside the labor force are spending more time playing video games, making leisure time more enjoyable. About half are in so much pain from physical maladies that they take daily medication for it, making holding a job difficult.

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