Why are

Why are American men leaving the workforce?

By Jon Beale

The share of men either working or actively looking for work in the United States between the ages of 25 and 54 (the prime working years) has been falling for more than 60 years. From a 1954 peak of 98% of prime-age men in the labour force to the low of 88% today, millions of men have dropped out of the workforce (meaning they aren’t working or even looking for a job).

No one really knows why this is happening.

In an effort to shed more light on the issue, President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers recently released their findings report The Long-Term Decline in Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation. The report found that decreased participation rates for prime-age men have largely been concentrated among those with a high school degree or less as their highest educational level. Advances in technology, automation, and globalization are thought to be among the largest drivers of this trend as employers reduce their demand for low skilled labour.

As economic development professionals, these trends are an important reminder that economic development needs to include all workers of society, regardless of education levels. There is a large body of evidence that links joblessness today to worse economic prospects in the future, leading to lower well-being and happiness and higher mortality rates. The prime working years of a person’s life are generally when salaries peak, allowing families to consume goods and services, invest in their children, and save for their retirement. Making sure that people, especially those in their prime working years, can find employment is a critical factor in ensuring healthy individuals, families, and communities.

This post first appeared in TINAN 75. Subscribe to TINAN for the latest economic development news and resources.