The Labor Department is overripe for reform. While federal policies for worker protections have been successful, the Labor Department is not a proactive agency when it comes to managing the scope and breadth of labor participation now or in the future. There are no national policies for a) protecting American jobs for American workers, b) preparing the American worker for the workplace, or c) planning and developing the labor force skillsets needed in the future.
The Reform Party stands for the American worker and for American jobs. If you work for a living and you see a future sun rising on a workspace devoid of American jobs, then the Reform Party is your party.
In this post, let’s look at overall labor force participation and then examine the make-up by race and gender over time. In March, we’ll take a deeper dive into the American worker’s battlespace.
“After rising steadily for more than three decades, the overall labor force participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent in early 2000 and subsequently fell to 62.7 percent by mid-2016. In recent years, the movement of the baby-boom population into age groups that generally exhibit low labor force participation has placed downward pressure on the overall participation rate.”- US Bureau of Labor
Unstated, and obvious, is that the increase in participation from the 70s through 2000 was due to more women in the job market. The American economy was booming, and the job market was booming along with it. The economy was able to absorb an extraordinary number of working women.
Times have changed though. In December 2021, the Brookings Institute reported:
“LFPR (Labor Force Participation Rate) fell precipitously at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has only partially recovered (figure 1). Overall LFPR (16+) fell from 63.3 to 60.2 percent in April 2020. It has since risen to 61.8 percent, still about 1 percentage point below the pre-pandemic projection of LFPR by the Congressional Budget Office and its lowest level in 45 years.”
“…its lowest level in 45 years…” What is happening? Let’s look at how participation was impacted by race and gender over time.
The key takeaway is that the LFPR was widely divergent in gender and race in the 50s, but the gap has narrowed significantly. All races benefitted from women entering the job market, and the US economy was able to accommodate this significant increase in its labor force. Note that black women led the way by percentages.
Looking more closely, this chart reveals two additional items worth mentioning. First, black men and women (gold lines) have the narrowest gap in LFPR. When it comes to equality, black Americans lead in equal-gender labor force participation. Hispanic men and women (red lines) have the most significant gap.
The second item of note is that while women’s participation rate was increasing and now seems to be leveling, the men’s LFPR has declined continuously since women entered the job market. And it continues to do so. Women are successfully competing with men, and it shows. We would be remiss not to acknowledge the disproportional shrinkage in the Labor Force Participation Rates during COVID. Here’s a quick look at job loss during the COVID pandemic over 12 months.
Participation in the labor force by women of color fell more than 4% in one year in each of two demographics. Twice the rate of others. The White House report in February 2021 does not provide insight into the cause for this extraordinary decline. It only notes it was “disproportional.”
In summary, the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) increased for more than thirty years as women entered the workforce. Women of all races benefitted and perhaps black women more than others.
Beginning in the year 2000, the overall LFPR has been decreasing. Speculatively, male baby boomers retiring in more significant numbers than women, and women competing with men for work, may be root causes. As men continue to withdraw from the job market in higher numbers in 2020, participation rates for women-only have begun to level out.
The COVID era job data shows that women of color were more impacted by job shrinkage. Will a continuing decrease in the Labor Force Participation rate have the same disproportional impact? More data is needed before drawing a conclusion.
One colossal question before us is whether that “giant sucking sound” of jobs going to other countries will stop or continue. NAFTA became a US policy in 1994, and a scant six years later, the US Work Force Labor Participation rate began its decline.
In the next month, the Reform Party will examine America’s working class and jobs in more detail.
Sources: US Census Bureau, US Bureau of Labor Statistics