Two-thirds of US men worked in 2010, a record low

A man dressed in a 1970s “Battlestar Galactica” Cylon costume. He's pandhandling. His  sign reads “Replaced by CGI. Please help.”

Even Cylons have trouble finding work. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Nik Hewitt/Best of Both Worlds)

A lower percentage of Americans held jobs last year than at any point since 1983, reports USA Today. After a peak of 49.3 percent employment in 2000, only 45.4 percent of Americans were employed. In addition, only 66.8 percent of men were employed in 2010, the lowest figure on record.

Challenges to U.S. social programs

The dramatic shift in employment numbers over the past decade springs from the three-pronged attack of a bad economy, aging Baby Boomer population and a relative plateau in the number of working women, according to Marc Goldwein of the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

“What’s wrong with the economy may be speeding up trends that are already happening,” Goldwein told USA Today.

Considering that jobs have been more difficult to come by since the recession, fewer adults have been working until later in life. Hence, more stress falls upon an already overtaxed Social Security system. Also, from 2000 – when the U.S. had roughly the same number of non-working adults and non-working children under 18 – to today, there has been a shift. Now, there are nine times more non-working adults.

Other key findings from the 2010 Census

Until the 1960s, more than 80 percent of adult men were employed. Since then, U.S. Census data has reflected a long, slow downward slide. When construction and manufacturing jobs began to dry up from December 2007 through June 2009, the percentage of working men plummeted to record low levels.

The trend of women obtaining work helped offset the dwindling numbers of men until the late 1990s, according to USA Today. From 1995 to 2010, the percentage of working women has hovered around 56 percent. Part of the reason women have not experienced the same job decline as men over the past few decades, suggests Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, is that women have traditionally been employed in fields like education and healthcare. These professions have been less prone to market fluctuation over time.

“Given how stark and concentrated the job losses are among men, and that women represented a high proportion of the labor force in the beginning of this recession, women are now bearing the burden — or the opportunity, one could say — of being breadwinners,” Boushey told the New York Times.

The expense of looking after retirees

As more than 77 million Baby Boomers reach retirement, the costs of caring for seniors becomes painfully apparent. In today’s dollars at current life expectancies, the National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that it costs $500,000 to care for a senior in post-retirement years. As the average retiree only receives $25,000 a year in benefits (between Social Security and Medicare), the proportion of unemployed Americans who aren’t contributing to the tax base becomes a mathematical conundrum.


New York Times

USA Today

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