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Advantage: Males ?

On the first Monday of each month, the Department of Labor releases its closely-watched “jobs report.”  Democrats focus on the unemployment rate and advocate more help for the unemployed.  Republicans focus on the labor force participation rate (LFPR) and complain people are obviously lazy.  (The LFPR loosely measures what proportion of the population either works or wants to work, with the rest being too lazy to support their families.)  The LFPR is currently 62.9%, which is much improved but still suggests 37.1% are students, homemakers, or “useless.”

During the global financial crisis, the unemployment rate was very high and the LFPR was low.  Fortunately, that has reversed.   There is no question that, once unemployment benefits expire, the long-term unemployed often fall out of the work force.  (Frankly, if I was a unemployed factory worker stuck in some backwater town of the Midwest during 2009, I would have also been tempted to simply watch “Wheel of Fortune” every day.)

That’s the old spin on LFPR.  Inside that number today, there are some interesting changes going on, particularly that women are more likely to be part of the workforce and men are less likely.  One reason is that man-dominated manufacturing sector has not recovered enough but has been mechanized enough that the sector now needs fewer workers.  The female-dominated service sector, on the other hand, has continued to grow, increasing demand for more workers.

Also, with longer life expectencies and the demise of pension plans, we watched the number of males over age 55 retiring actually decline for many years.  Men over 55 were working longer, because they had to!  That appears to be changing now, as more men over 55 are now retiring than entering the market.  That is not true for women.  Stuck in lower-paying service sector jobs, women over 55 continue to flood the labor market.  Another reason for this is that women are less-likely to be disabled and can actually work longer, having been stuck in jobs that were less physically demanding.  Plus, with their longer life expectencies, they need a larger retirement “nest egg” than men do.  Women have to work longer.

Assuming work is bad, it looks like things are getting better for older men, while getting worse for older women.