Press ReleaseDecember 4, 2015

NOVEMBER JOBS: Too many working-age adults missing and inactive

(ATLANTA, GA) Today’s release of the jobs report for November revealed the nation’s working-age population is stuck at a high level of economic inactivity unseen in decades. The labor force participation rate for young adults, ages 20-24, is lower than at any point since 1972; while the rate for working age adults, ages 25-54, is wallowing at a level without rival since 1984. The CEOs of Job Creators Network warn the true health of the economy should be measured by the alarming number of healthy adults standing on the sideline.

“Student loan debt has more than doubled from $600 million in 2006 to $1.3 trillion today, yet the percentage of 20-24 year olds out looking for a job has crashed and not recovered since the Great Recession,” said Ed Rensi, former president and CEO of McDonald’s USA and a member of Job Creators Network. “What is all this education borrowing buying us when we’ve got an extra 650,000 young adults not even looking for work?”

The average monthly labor force participation rate for 20-24 year olds was above 74 percent during the 19-month recession of 2007-2009, and for decades before. But the percentage of young adults seeking work has fallen sharply as the economy has supposedly been in recovery, dipping below 70 percent in August 2012 and staying below an average of 71 percent since then. If the participation rate for 20-24 year olds had remained at the pre-recession level, more than 650,000 additional people would be in the labor force.

“When young workers don’t get involved in the economy at the start, they’re at risk of never joining at all,” continued Rensi. “And that’s exactly the problem we’re starting to see with people in the prime earning years of their lives – an extra 2.5 million of them are M-A-I, ‘missing and inactive’ – too many of them in their 30s or younger.”

The labor force participation rate for workers ages 25-54 averaged better than 83 percent during the recession, but has sustained a monthly average of less than 81 percent over the last year. Prior to the current era, the participation rate for this population had not dipped below 81 percent in any single month since November of 1984. If the pre-recession participation rate of 83 percent for 25-54 year olds still existed, an additional 2.5 million of them would be in the job market.

“The Affordable Care Act, the Stimulus spending, empowering the overpowering NLRB, costly regulations on power plants and too many other examples of federal tinkering over the last six years have failed the future of our economy – it’s youngest workers,” concluded Rensi. “It is long past time for Washington to get out of the business of getting in the way of business.”

The November jobs report, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning, showed 211,000 jobs created last month and an unemployment rate that was 5.0 percent, unchanged from October.