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The Jobs "Boom" Isn't So Hot When We Remember Nearly Six Million Men Are Missing from the Workforce
Mises Wire ^ | 12/08/2022 | Ryan McMaken

Posted on 12/09/2022 12:41:18 PM PST by george76

Last week, the employment news was all about how payrolls increased by 269,000 jobs and blew past expectations. Yet, when we looked at the actual number of employed persons, it turned out that the number of employed people has gone down in recent months. At 158.4 million, total employment is still nearly 400,000 workers below where it was before the Covid Panic of 2020.

Those who support the everything-is-great narrative have responded to the unimpressive employed-workers numbers by dismissing them as a result of workers retiring and other demographic changes. These explanations, however, require that we ignore the fact that millions of men age 25-54—that is, men of working age—have removed themselves from the workforce. When so many men—men who would have been in the workforce 20 or 30 years ago—aren't even trying to get a job, this lowers the unemployment rate and makes total jobs numbers look more impressive.

In fact, as of September of this year, there appears to be nearly a six-million-man gap between the number of men in the prime-age group—age 25-54—and the number of prime-age men actually in the workforce. Depending on why they're out of the workforce, that is potentially some very bad news for both the economy and for society overall.

How Many Men Are Out of the Work Force?

Prime-age male workforce participation rose year-over-year in November, rising to 88.4 percent above last November's estimate of 88.2 percent. Workforce participation has been climbing out of a hole since the rate hit an all-time low of 86.4 percent during April 2020.


The larger trend in workforce participation for prime-age men, however, has been one of decline for decades. During the 1950s and into the early 60s, prime-age workforce participation for men was nearly 98 percent. That began to fall throughout the 60s, and by 1980, it was around 94 percent. The trend didn't end there, however, and even during the construction boom of the housing-bubble years, participation never rose above 91.4 percent. The participation rate has never risen above 90 percent since 2009.

What does this mean in total numbers of prime-age males? If we look at the difference between total prime-age men, and the total number of them in the work force, we find that the gap as of November was about 7,040,000 men.


The workforce measure is of civilian workers, however, so if we account for approximately one million active-duty males, that leaves us with about 6 million men out of the work force. But what about stay-at-home dads? Many of these dads have at least part-time jobs, and are thus still in the work force. According to Census data, however, the number of stay-at-home dads who are also "out of the workforce" numbers approximately 200,000.

So, if we shrink that gap by the men in the military and by the stay-at-home dads who don't earn wages, we are left with about 5.8 million men who are spending their days doing something other than working for (legal) wages or parenting children.

So, how are these men surviving without income? According to research by Ariel Binder and John Bound, most of these men are low-income, but receive income from parents, spouses, and girlfriends. Among men not in the work force, this cohabitants' income "accounts for the largest share of income" in the households where these men reside. Many of these men elect not to work because the opportunity cost of not working is relatively low. As Alan Kreuger has noted, the decline in workforce participation has been especially steep among those with lower earning potential such as those with a high school degree or less. Many men in this category also report poor health and that they take pain medication daily. This also suggests high incidence of opioid addiction among men not in the work force. Few younger men who have left the workforce are eligible for government disability benefits. Among older men, however, disability benefits supplement income from other household members.

What If These Men Rejoined the Work Force?

Having a few million men leave the workforce drives down the unemployment rate. What would the employment picture look like if all these men were to suddenly join the workforce by looking for work?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a gap of four million between job openings—10 million—and total unemployed workers—6 million. If all the current job openings were magically filled by current unemployed workers, that would still leave 2 million unemployed workers. Now, let's add back into the work force those 5.8 million males who are aren't in the work force at all. We'd then have a situation in which all job openings were filled and we still would have 7.8 million unemployed workers. The unemployment rate would increase to 4.7 percent, or the highest rate since September 2021.

But that's not a very probable scenario. While many of the six million unemployed workers are only in transition, many others are unemployed because their industries are cutting jobs, or because the workers generally lack the proper skills or education. When it comes to the men who have left the work force entirely, the picture is more bleak. As we've seen, a sizable portion of men who have left the work force have likely done so for reasons that make them something other than ideal job candidates. If they were to begin looking for work, the more likely scenario is one in which the currently unemployed 6 million workers would balloon up to over 10 million. This would drive the unemployment rate up over 6 percent while also softening upward pressure on wages.


Once layoffs start to accelerate—as many indicators suggest will happen in 2023—the situation will only become worse with the unemployment rate heading up even higher.

If one were to go only on the headlines we get from the mainstream business press, though, it does seem like there's nary a potential worker to be found out there anywhere. The truth is less pleasant as millions of prime-age men aren't working, looking for work, or caring for children. That phenomenon is very good for making the official unemployment rate seem low, but it also lowers the economy's overall productivity while reducing savings. Even worse are the sociological effects of millions of men sitting at home living off of government disability checks or the toil of relatives, girlfriends and spouses.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: bideneffect; bidenvoters; employment; jobs; payrolls; unemployment; workforce

1 posted on 12/09/2022 12:41:18 PM PST by george76
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To: george76

.....this entire article reminds me of a shell game (i.e. which cup is the peanut under).

What sane intelligent person would believe any number published by our federal government. They have not even agreed on how many shots were fired at Kennedy 59 years later.

2 posted on 12/09/2022 12:48:23 PM PST by Cen-Tejas
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To: george76; grey_whiskers

…. In fact, as of September of this year, there appears to be nearly a six-million-man gap between the number of men in the prime-age group—age 25-54—and the number of prime-age men actually in the workforce. Depending on why they're out of the workforce, that is potentially some very bad news for both the economy and for society overall.….

Hmmmm…..why would so many be out of the workforce?

Karl Denninger has a guess.

3 posted on 12/09/2022 12:50:18 PM PST by Jane Long (What we were told was a “conspiracy theory” in 2020 is now fact. 🙏🏻 Ps 33:12 of day. )
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To: george76

ADP’s report was completely different than BLS. The bad news in the ADP report was manufacturing employment fell by 100k last month. BLS showed a gain. I know that they use different methods of counting the unemployed. But how do you trust? A company the processes payroll or lazy ass government employees that could never get a real job in the private sector? I fully believe the latter is doing the bidding of Biden and the deep state. I don’t trust a damn thing the government says.

4 posted on 12/09/2022 12:52:30 PM PST by ConservativeInPA (Stupidly is a moral problem, not an intellectual problem. )
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To: george76
I've never really trusted the government but at this point I believe that agencies are just making up numbers to feed to the sheeple so we won't know just how really bad things are in the country and the world.

I am holding my breath waiting for the day my wife announces she is being laid's coming and the inflationary wave that is going to hit this country after the new year is going to be massive.
5 posted on 12/09/2022 12:53:55 PM PST by The Louiswu (- .-. ..- -- .--. / ..--- ----- ..--- ....-)
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To: Jane Long
why would so many be out of the workforce?

No one answer to this I don’t believe, so I’ll give you three.

1. Government handouts, whether that be old fashioned welfare, food stamps, or “covid relief”

2. Living off family money, whether that means moving back in with them, or spending their inheritance after they died

3. Illicit money, from drug sales or other contraband like theft from stores

6 posted on 12/09/2022 12:55:07 PM PST by Golden Eagle (The LGBTQ indoctrination agenda is designed to outlaw the Bible, and anyone who follows it.)
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To: george76

Most of the missing are making a great living by looting, selling drugs, sex trafficking, human slavery etc. and they don’t pay taxes on that income.

7 posted on 12/09/2022 12:55:55 PM PST by McGavin999 (A sense of humor is a sign of intelligence, leftists have no sense of humor, therefore………)
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To: Jane Long

“D” squared (death/disability).

8 posted on 12/09/2022 12:58:12 PM PST by Qiviut (I'm not out of control, I'm just not in their control. $hot $hills: Sod Off)
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To: Jane Long

He seems to have backed off a bit lately...
I think he’s playing his cards close to his vest
(there is some chicanery playing with the official employment numbers, though I think he had his own historical version; and, could be slackers vs. deaths vs. clotshot injuries and people going on disability?)

9 posted on 12/09/2022 1:07:38 PM PST by grey_whiskers ( (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.))
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To: george76

That should read “White men.”

10 posted on 12/09/2022 1:10:48 PM PST by Vermont Lt
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To: ConservativeInPA

I pay more attention to ADP. Leftist idiots like my in-laws pay attention to BLS.

11 posted on 12/09/2022 1:13:08 PM PST by Kaiser8408a (z)
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To: Jane Long

Yes he does....

12 posted on 12/09/2022 1:15:05 PM PST by redgolum (If this is civilization, I will be the barbarian. )
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To: Golden Eagle; Jane Long
No one answer to this I don’t believe, so I’ll give you three.

totally agree
they choose NOT to work and are cool with living off of others

13 posted on 12/09/2022 3:57:18 PM PST by SisterK (the final variant is communism)
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To: Vermont Lt


14 posted on 12/10/2022 12:09:18 AM PST by SaveFerris (Luke 17:28 ... as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold ......)
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To: george76

What we are seeing is another age bracket for males not working full time from the MidWest, to SW and West Coast.

Their Ages: 55/65, and they are men who are leaving the workforce and basically becoming part time workers and/or with no real jobs at all.

They often have the same profile: A working spouse with regular income and health insurance coverage and no children in college or trade schools. Most of their adult children live away and have reasonably good jobs. These guys often have good skills and often work 1-2 days a week. Last but not least, these guys are often white or 2nd generation Hispanics. They have reliable reputations as long as you don’t try to hire them full time.

My wife’s dad and his 8 brothers could have been early role models for their time re being young and basically not working in a job after turning 55 years old. They lived in a small midwest town, stopped working 5+ days per week @55/56.

Their wives had entered the job markets and had paying jobs and health insurance coverage.

My wife had 3 uncles on the other side of her family. They were teachers and coaches/ principals until they pulled the plug on teaching 5 days per week. They became substitute teachers/principals for 3-4 days per week. They started pulling the full time plug in their late 50’s. A couple of them drove school buses on demand. They spent more time on their farms and critter raising businesses after leaving their regular jobs. Interestingly, all 3 lived until their mid 90’s, a record for males in their family. They and their wives seem to thrive on their semi retirement.

My wife and I feel that we will see the same work trends with the males in our family approaching their mid 50’s. One has just done that. He said that it was the first time in 25 years he enjoyed Thanksgiving and is looking for to this Christmas with zero job obligations and being on call. He gets a lot of calls and texts from his cousins. He feels that in 1-2 years, basically every male cousin will pull the plug on regular jobs.

Our nieces are different! They like their jobs and may work past age 65 in their jobs. My wife worked as a lead RN until she was 70. As one of them noted, “Their HR people love the older and career oriented female workers!”

In today’s world, not too many males will say on their death beds: “I wish that I could have worked more for someone else!”

15 posted on 12/10/2022 2:21:39 PM PST by Grampa Dave ((Truth is hate speech to those, who hate the truth!) (clintonh8r))
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