Young Americans Are Dropping Out of the Work Force, Too.


unemployment10Over the past several weeks, as I navigate, as a 55-year-old, through what seems to be a never-ending job quest, I have chronicled various aspects of what is going on with America’s Labor Force.

Stephen Moore, who formerly wrote on the economy and public policy for The Wall Street Journal, is chief economist at The Heritage Foundation. In an article, originally posted on, reprinted on, he looks at the disturbing trend of young Americans dropping out of the work force.

…The percentage of young Americans earning a paycheck or looking for work has fallen by 4 percentage points over the course of the recovery, and those between 16 and 25 have experienced the largest decline.

Those over 65, by the way, are more likely to be working today than five years ago. This shift has cushioned the blow of young people not working.

Why is this trend so troubling? Studies show that teens who start working at a job at a young age have higher earnings later in life. One study found that those who work as teenagers have earnings that are about 10% higher at age 27 than those who did not work.

“When we hold young Americans out of jobs,” explains Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute, “that makes it more difficult for them to get higher-paying jobs later.”

The federal minimum-wage hikes that started in 2007 didn’t help. Teens were priced out of the job market. The overall teen jobless rate skyrocketed. For black males, it topped 40%.

The teen unemployment rate remains at 19.2% — even with the participation rate down sharply — so it would be hard to imagine a worse time to raise the minimum wage again.

…Saltsman’s research shows that a 10% rise in the minimum wage could mean a 2% or 3% decline in young Americans working. Seattle is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. A $10.10 federal minimum wage is being pushed by the White House. The current minimum wage is $7.25.

“When wages are held artificially high,” says Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder, “jobs are a lot more scarce. Unemployment is negatively associated with the wage rate.”

High teen unemployment is a big problem in Europe, where wage floors are very high. In nations such as France and Spain, the young delay their entry into the workforce until their mid- or even late 20s. These workers’ wages rarely catch up to those who start working earlier. Europe has traditionally had a much smaller share of young adults in jobs.

“Where have the workers been going in the U.S.?” asks Louis Woodhill, an economist in Houston. “They have been fleeing into the arms of the welfare state.” Since 2007, 2 million more Americans have started receiving Social Security disability payments, and food-stamp rolls have increased by 20 million. This has substituted for jobs.

…One possible reason that the young are staying away from the labor force is student loans. Since 2007, student loans have risen by more than $500 billion, a subsidy that may be giving college-age students an incentive to take aid instead of look for work to become financially self-sufficient and acquire marketable skills.

We do no favors to the young by teaching them that they can consume or have a good time without first earning the money they spend. The decline in young workers couldn’t come at a worse time. At the other end of the spectrum, as the 80 million boomers move swiftly out of the workforce in the decade ahead, who will support them? Mick Jagger isn’t going to be playing forever.

It is a natural inbred desire of mankind, from our “hunting and gathering” days, to “eat what we kill”. IN other words, to be able to provide for ourselves and our family.

Of course modern man’s version of this, is to be a participant in the work force.

In 1993, multifaceted actor Kevin Kline starred in the movie, “Dave”, as the owner of a small town staffing agency, who is a dead ringer for the President of the United States. During the movie, Dave gives the following observation, which nails this innate desire I have been speaking of,

If you’ve ever seen the look on somebody’s face the day they finally get a job, I’ve had some experience with this, they look like they could fly. And it’s not about the paycheck, it’s about respect, it’s about looking in the mirror and knowing that you’ve done something valuable with your day. And if one person could start to feel this way, and then another person, and then another person, soon all these other problems may not seem so impossible. You don’t really know how much you can do until you, stand up and decide to try.

To get so down on yourself, so depressed that you don’t even want to look for a job, happens to all of us at one time or another. The important thing is, to fight through it, to realize that you are special. You are the only “you” that there will ever be.

Fight for your right to succeed.

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.

– Allen


One thought on “Young Americans Are Dropping Out of the Work Force, Too.

  1. Wendy Shafer

    As a small business owner, and parent I have encouraged, and introduced earning a tangible reward by computer data entry skills, or other not usual tasks for the sense of achievement and money management. We also actively give, and volunteer in community centers, and neighborhoods. Personal crafting and entrepreneurial skills are also highly rewarded.

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