Home > The Economy > U.S. lags badly in employment of prime-age workers

U.S. lags badly in employment of prime-age workers

from Dean Baker

In 2006, before the recession hit, there was not much difference in the employment rate for prime-age (ages 25–54) workers in the United States and other wealthy countries. The employment to population ratio (EPOP) for prime age workers in the United States was 79.8 percent. That was slightly below the 81.2 percent rate in France and the United Kingdom, but slightly above the 78.8 percent rate in Germany.

However, the recession has seriously altered the patterns of employment of prime age workers. According to the latest OECD quarterly data, Germany and Japan both now have EPOPs for prime age workers that are well above their pre-recession levels, at 83.4 percent and 82.6 percent, respectively. The EPOP for prime age workers in the U.K. has risen slightly to 82.3 percent, while it has fallen slightly to 80.4 percent in France.

By contrast, the EPOP for prime age workers in the United States fell sharply during the downturn and has only recovered about half the ground it lost. At 77.2 percent, the EPOP for prime-age workers in the United States is well below the levels in the other four major economies and is more than six percentage points behind the EPOP in Germany.

This indicates either that prime-age workers lost interest in working over the last eight years for reasons that were not present elsewhere, or alternatively, that we have a serious problem of inadequate demand in the United States.

Prime-Age EPOP, 2006 to 2014

Leave your comments

  1. graccibros
    May 13, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Dean:

    I don’t know what your problem in understanding is here. First of all, the U.S. is the exceptional nation, so why wouldn’t that be reflected in exceptional data patterns as well?

    Second, as any good Republican “theorist” could tell you, good character has declined in the U.S. due to the still powerful influences of the 1960’s: sex, drugs and rock and roll. And secularism, let’s not leave that out. Work in conventional channels? Why?

    This is demonstrated even in deeply Christian places like West Virginia and Western Maryland, where drug dealers from Baltimore have set up shop in a new “market.” Even drug dealers Dean, believe in the power of the marketplace, but they’ve found the pay in the old channels a bit grim. West Virginians might make the point that their dealers are entirely home grown, like the ginseng marketeers portrayed on the history channel.

    And in the schools, who has ever heard of the WPA, CCC? If President Obama is a socialist, what was FDR then?

    As for lack of demand, didn’t you learn from Reagan that there cannot ever be a lack of demand, only lack of supply caused by over-regulation, excessive taxation, public union pension payments and not least of all – by demand crushing vegans and environmentalists.
    Why they don’t even believe in modern technological wonders like fracking; fracking is the logical invention of an exceptional nation, and we’re going to get every last drop out of the ground even if we have to melt the Artic ice gap to get at it, and spill a little “Hersey’s syrup” along the way.

    What’s next from you, the idea that our trade deficit is causing that lack of demand; what are you for, a “weak” dollar, more sixties permissiveness, leading to national decline. Let’s get with the program here Dean, and no vacationing in Greece, either, let them twist in the wind along with that quirky American advisor, Galbraith. Can you believe he once said that a nation which runs a continual trade deficit can’t have a balanced budget domestically, its impossible, can’t square the accounting equations. In the old days, he would have been burned at the stake, along with David Harvey, Richard Wolff and Richard Smith, the heretic who wrote “Green Capitalism: The God that Failed.” You expect language like that in the end times, you can take that to one of the very big banks, but won’t get much interest on it.

    That should clarify things a bit for readers here.

    • May 14, 2015 at 1:48 am

      You left out the Gay piece!

      • graccibros
        May 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm

        Right you are Herb, an oversight.

        Peter Gay, the noted intellectual historian, and known to many of the postwar generation as the author of “Weimar Culture,” passed away very recently, I saw his obit. in the New York Times this week. I had forgotten that he was unhappy with Carl Becker’s “Heavenly City of the 18th Century Philosophers,” which I had recently played off of in my essay “The Heavenly City of the Republican Right.” I maintained that their Heavenly City is located in the 19th century, although which half is in dispute internally. That didn’t get a mention in the times, but Gay had answered Becker with a two volume history of the Enlightenment, restoring its hotly disputed place in intellectual “evolution.”
        John Gray the contemporary philosopher who wrote “False Dawn,” one of the best and critical books about globalization, is also no fan of the Enlightenment, saying the free trade Globalizers are the last great Enlightenment project, the Bolsheviks having failed miserably. Ouch.

        Glad I could clarify things.

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