The economy added a couple hundred thousand jobs in June — 223,000 if you’re counting — and the employment rate dropped slightly, to 5.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even so, “disappointing” was the word of the day, in part because the labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age people who have a job or are looking for one, fell to its lowest level since the late 1970s.
Teens looking for a summer job may have a slightly better outlook than last year, but there are a lot of “missing workers” in prime-age range of 25 to 54, says Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. She says these are potential workers who, because of weak job opportunities, are neither employed nor seeking a job.
Gould believes the fact that over two-thirds of missing workers are prime age is a “sign that economy is not that strong, and they don’t see a place for themselves in it right now.”
Turning to baby boomers: even though it’s well documented that many older workers are staying on the job longer than before, Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution, says it’s not enough to make up for the large number of boomers who are retiring.
“At age 65, more and more people are participants, and more and more of them are employed,” he says. “Well, that might be a surprise, but nonetheless, it’s a small offset.”
Moving from age to gender: men left the labor force in June in big numbers, the continuation of a multidecade trend.
But after steady increases in the participation rate of women toward the end of the last century, they’ve also fallen off in recent years, says John Silvia, the chief economist at Wells Fargo.
“It may be that oftentimes the female is the second bread winner,” he says. “And the cost of her going to work, taking care of the kids, the marginal tax rates just don’t provide the incentives for the second bread winner, whether male or female, to go out there and get the job.”