“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -Pablo Picasso
The American workforce has evolved a lot in our 225+ years of existence. From agrarian entrepreneurs to factory workers, from cubicle dwellers to who knows what’s next. For the most part, the labor force has evolved as our economy has matured, grown and diversified. The working population has held up its end of the deal, actively pursuing work and producing goods and services based on market demands.
However, things are changing once again. A closely watched number by economists is the labor force participation rate, defined as the percentage of working age population that is able to work and is either employed or actively seeking employment. It is found by dividing the labor force (total civilian labor force) by the population (total non-institutionalized civilian population).
The latest economic report indicated that the U.S. has the lowest labor participation rate since the late 70s, at roughly 63 percent. Like most economic numbers, this requires closer examination. The labor force swelled in the 80s and 90s as baby boomers entered their peak earning years. Now, many are retiring, which is impacting the number. A weak economy has driven some away from actively seeking work until better work can be found. Finally, some people operate in the all-cash economy, and do not report their earnings. Because of technology, both knowledge workers and manual laborers can operate in this “underground” manner.
There are trends emerging. Less young people are participating in the regular economy, and the rate of working age men is also declining. The rate of females has drastically increased over the past 30 years, but is hovering around 60 percent. The number of elderly has steadily increased as baby boomers continue to work and are in better health than previous generations at the same age. A good point of reference is this blog post, by economist Timothy Taylor.
The Columbus Region’s participation rate is higher than the national average, currently estimated at 68 percent. That says something good about our region, but it also raises the question – what are we missing? What talents and skills are being left on the sidelines if 32 percent of the working age population is not actively engaged in the workforce?
Participation in the economy builds hope, inherent skills and abilities. And it leads to the innovations that are required to evolve our economy.
One Columbus Update