Male employment at an all-time low

By Felix Salmon
April 3, 2009

Beth F left a comment on my blog entry about this morning’s payrolls report:

Even though the unemployment rate hit 8.5%, 91.5% of the population is still working.

Actually, this couldn’t be more wrong; the true number is 59.9%. Heather Boushey runs the scary numbers:

The average work week fell by 0.1 hours to 33.2 hours per week in March—the lowest level since 1964 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tabulating this data…

The share of the U.S. population with a job is now at 59.9 percent, which is lower than any time since 1985. This is especially striking since so many women have entered the labor market since then. The fall off in the employment rate has been larger among men than women, and there are fewer men at work than at any point since the BLS began tabulating this data after World War II: 68.2 percent of U.S. men age 20 and over had a job in March, down 4.1 percentage points from a year ago.

A decade ago, the big news on the employment front was the way in which demand for labor was so great that people who had considered themselves to be out of the the labor force for years ended up getting dragged back into it. Now it’s the other way around — people who really want jobs are ceasing to look for work because they consider the job hunt to be pointless.

At some point in the next few months, it’s entirely probable that fewer than two in three working-age men will have a job. Which is why the stimulus is so necessary: if nothing else it will help with the desperately-needed task of job creation.

(HT: Yglesias)

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