The “Mancession” Continues

That the US unemployment rate continues to fall sounds like good news. The economy added 248,000 jobs in September 2014, and that seems like a lot.

But it isn’t. Unemployment is falling for a different reason.

The Great Recession saw the unemployment rate double from 5% in December 2007 to 10% in October 2009, and now it stands at 5.9%. But during that same time the percentage of adults either employed or looking for employment went from 66% to 65%. Today it’s 62.7%.

The unemployment rate is falling because there are more people giving up than there are new jobs being created.

This graph shows labor force participation at the start of the Great Recession to today. Keep in mind that the unemployment rate has been falling since 2010:

us labor force participation 2008-2014This downward trend will probably level off at some point. But even then it may not be because the economy creates more jobs. Instead, a large number of people – Baby Boomers – will reach retirement age and will no longer be counted.

But who, exactly, is giving up on the prospect of paid employment? Jeb Kinnison summarizes an article from The Economist, which unsurprisingly finds that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds have more dismal educational prospects and thus have fewer or no job prospects.

This in turn makes these men less desirable to women as long-term partners. But, I would add, these men are still convenient as baby daddies, thus increasing fatherlessness, which in turn contributes to a cycle of poor outcomes for children.

This trend is making its way into the middle class, however, as young people graduate with crippling college debt and no job prospects.

Kinnison summarizes The Economist thus:

• Large numbers of less advantaged men are being discarded and never allowed to gain responsibility;
• Blue Model programs locking children into bad schools and continuing the Drug War are partly responsible;
• Women have been empowered to do whatever they want professionally, but if they want a stable husband and family, many are out of luck;
• College for everyone has turned out to be a cruel waste for many and left them deeply in debt;
• Vocational education should be restored in importance and subsidized college loan programs reduced.

This disproportionately affects men because males do less well in school, and because women who choose to have children without a partner have welfare as an option in the absence of a job while men rarely have the same option because their children don’t live with them. One consequence is a high incarceration rate, especially for African-American men.

An incomplete list of ideas:

  • Allow school vouchers so parents can choose better schools. Competition between schools will improve standards better than any government mandate could.
  • Educate young people about the realities of college: Tuition is a business investment, and the potential return is key. An English degree simply isn’t worth as much as an accounting degree.
  • Encourage trades starting in middle school. We’ll always need people to fix our cars, furnaces, and plumbing.
  • Deregulate small business. The paperwork and senseless regulations one must deal with when starting a business is a huge job killer.
  • Require parents (mostly single mothers) to look for work, even minimum wage work, before qualifying for welfare.
  • End the war on drugs.

5 thoughts on “The “Mancession” Continues

  1. Good post. The implications of what is happening have been absolutely heart breaking to watch. I live in a small town that’s been hit hard with around 16% unemployment. It’s like a tiny laboratory for observing the social impact of what happens when men get left behind.

    I like the list of ideas, especially deregulate small business and encourage trades. It’s really elitist to suggest that the only path to success is four year degree. Plumbers can make just as much money as a college educated professional. I’d add encouraging entrepreneurship, self employment, rather than job seeking. Find a need that suits your skills and fill it.

  2. I’ve often wondered why people bring up schooling as an indicator of potential employability. Grade school? Can’t see why. High school? Maybe for low end-jobs. University? Depends on the major that you pick, and your grades (doctor, dentist, any health related trade). Practical trades colleges (mechanics, electric, etc) I can see. My experience is that what really gets on the job is based on how hard a person works to find what they want and how much they’re driven to make money. We have many examples of men dropping out of college to become self-made millionaires. I agree that entrepreneurship and self-employment are the way to go. One of the reasons, I believe, that our world is become very wonky is that there is a tremendous amount of services jobs vs. production jobs. We are constantly selling, reselling, and offering little more than the sheen of emotional glitter to products that are made across the world. I can understand that in many cases, these are precisely the kind of communication oriented, safe, indoor jobs that many women will seek, but I’m not sure that schooling is directly connected to this, or how it has a direct impact on men qua men. Then again, I’m not an economist.

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