23% Of Americans In Their Prime Working Years Are Unemployed

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Did you know that when you take the number of working age Americans that are officially unemployed (8.2 million) and add that number to the number of working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force” (94.3 million), that gives us a grand total of 102.5 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now?  I have written about this before, but today I want to focus just on Americans that are in their prime working years.  When you look at only Americans that are from age 25 to age 54, 23.2 percent of them are unemployed right now.  The following analysis and chart come from the Weekly Standard

Here’s a chart showing those in that age group currently employed (95.6 million) and those who aren’t (28.9 million):


Americans In Their Prime Working Years Not Working


“There are 124.5 million Americans in their prime working years (ages 25–54). Nearly one-quarter of this group—28.9 million people, or 23.2 percent of the total—is not currently employed. They either became so discouraged that they left the labor force entirely, or they are in the labor force but unemployed.


This group of non-employed individuals is more than 3.5 million larger than before the recession began in 2007,” writes the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee.

Clearly, we have never recovered from the impact of the last recession.

But let’s try to put these numbers in context.

Below, I would like to share two charts with you.  They show what has happened to the inactivity rates for men and for women in their prime working years in the United States in recent years.

In order to be considered “inactive”, you can’t have a job and you can’t be looking for a job.  So this subset of people is smaller than the group that we were talking about above.  The 23.2 percent of Americans in their prime working years that are unemployed right now includes those that are looking for a job and those that are not looking for a job.

These next two charts do not include anyone that has a job or that is currently looking for a job.  These charts only cover “inactive” people in their prime working years that are not considered to be in the labor force.

As you can see in this first chart, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years exploded higher during the last recession and then continued to go up even after the recession supposedly ended.  At this point, it is hovering near all-time record highs.  Does this look like an “economic recovery” to you?…

Inactivity Rate Men

For women, we see a similar thing.  In this next chart, you can see that the inactivity rate for women in their prime working years rose during the last recession and then just kept on rising.  At this point, it is also hovering near all-time record highs…

Inactivity Rate Women

What are we to make of all this?

For both men and women in their prime working years, the inactivity rate is even higher than it was during the last recession and is hovering near the all-time record.

All of these people neither have a job nor are they looking for one.

So what in the world is going on here?

Are they independently wealthy?

Have these people found rich spouses to marry so they don’t have to work?

No, the truth is that the middle class in America is steadily eroding and poverty is absolutely exploding.  Credit card debt has soared to a new record high, and 48 percent of all U.S. adults under the age of 30 believe that “the American Dream is dead”.

The issue isn’t that people don’t want to work.

The issue is that people cannot find enough work.

And even if you have a job, that does not mean that you are on easy street.  According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

Tens of millions of Americans are now among the ranks of “the working poor”.  So many families are watching their expenses soar while their paychecks go down or stagnate.  If you are in this situation right now, then you probably know how exceedingly stressful it can be.

Just look at what is happening to the cost of health insurance.  The following comes from Fox News

Health insurance premiums have increased faster than wages and inflation in recent years, rising an average of 28 percent from 2009 to 2014 despite the enactment of Obamacare, according to a report from Freedom Partners.

And I am not exactly sure where they got those numbers.  Personally, I know that my health insurance rates have gone up far faster than that.

Two years ago, my health insurance company wanted to double the health insurance premiums for my family even though we never get sick.  So I switched to another insurance company that offered a policy that was only about 30 percent higher than my last one.  But then when it came time to renew, that insurance company wanted to raise my rate by another 50 percent.

Thanks to Obamacare, American families are being absolutely crippled by the cost of health care.  And of course we are seeing the rising cost of living so many other places as well.  Our paychecks are being squeezed harder and harder, and this is absolutely killing the middle class.  In fact, the middle class in America is now a minority for the first time ever.

And now for the real bad news – this is about as good as things are ever going to get in this country.  As you can see from what I have shared above, we never really had any sort of meaningful “economic recovery”, and now we have entered the early phases of the next major downturn.

So where do we go from here?  Unfortunately, our debt-fueled prosperity has provided us with a massively inflated standard of living that is not even close to sustainable.  As this bubble bursts, the economic pain is going to be absolutely unprecedented.

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TeamDepends's picture

But, but the unemployment rate is 4.9%, right?

Isy's picture

Oh really? are you sure about that? Read this


greenskeeper carl's picture

This makes sense. By most realistic measure, unemployment is around 25%, and we are in a depression.

Troy Ounce's picture





Soon to be officially revised to 4%

Ghost of PartysOver's picture

An environment the breeds civil unrest.  And what can and usually does follow civil unrest?

Dutti's picture

no civil unrest. Everybody will get a guaranteed income. The other 75% will pay for it.

VinceFostersGhost's picture




Yes we CAN......but we decided not to.

Shocker's picture

The Great Recovery now 7+ Years....

Layoff List: http://www.dailyjobcuts.com


Poundsand's picture

Old enough to remember the arguments that 5% unemployment was virtually unattainable and was considered full employment.  But of course I degress.  We have to make the current political class the wonder kings of the world, and it always, always has to be 'better'.  Hillary will no doubt reach negative employment numbers...

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Amerikansky, welcome to reality of rest of world where scrape and scheme is daily routine because of tyrannical oppression of state. You are blessed with Constitutional Republic, but squander opportunity of chance to govern self. Instead you are subservient to state, subject of capricious power organ. You are trade birthright for mess of pottage. You are worth now of neither.

…but what is Boris knowing?

de3de8's picture

Borris, stoking the fire, need all the help we can get.

Temporalist's picture
Japan’s elderly turn to life of crime to ease cost of living

"Crime figures show that about 35 per cent of shoplifting offences are committed by people over 60. Within that age bracket, 40 per cent of repeat offenders have committed the same crime more than six times.

There is good reason, concludes a report, to suspect that the shoplifting crime wave in particular represents an attempt by those convicted to end up in prison — an institution that offers free food, accommodation and healthcare."



Krugman's Japan

Adahy's picture

Osda Sunoi Boris, wow.
I had to log in to green you on that one, as it is so succinct.

Onehundredpercentofnuthin...'s picture

@Boris: It's a damn shame it takes someone from another country to tell us 'Muricans what we should all know. Some of us do, the other 95% remain blissfully unaware.

ZeroIntelligence's picture

Interesting anecdote--I have a couple lawyer friends who are willfully unemployed.  It seems to be a rising trend amongst law students who have worked 2-3 years to either become so disillusioned that they no longer want to work and just quit, or they change careers entirely.  Good for them though that they have saved enough money in those handful of working years to be fortunate to do so.  There's no way that this small example makes up the 23% figure the article references, but I wonder if other career paths are also leading to workforce disillusionment.

CheapBastard's picture

Orwellian economy? Millennials get paid like it’s 1984


Millennials are one of the best educated generations in American history, but all that class time is not paying off in their paychecks.


Brendan Duke, an economist at the Center for American Progress, says his research shows that 30-year-olds today earn the same amount of compensation as 30-year-olds in 1984, adjusted for inflation.







Bindar Dundat's picture

This crap is exactely why we need a strong leader to "MAKE AMERICA STRONG AGAIN!"  

Get out in the remaining primaries and put TRUMP over the top. Bring home the jobs!


True Blue's picture

Millennials are one of the best educated generations in American history


Thanks; I really needed a good laugh.

oddjob's picture

Half of that remaining 75% suck off the goverment tit, so the unemeployed are actually more productive than the majority of the people you expect to foot the bill.

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

This is an important consideration, actually.  The % of Americans that work for .gov (muni, state, Fedcoat) is likely similar in size to the % of working-age Americans not in the workforce.  According to the 2014 census.gov stats, there are 13.8 million Americans employed by muni .gov nationwide.  State .gov employs another 5.2 million Americans.  The Fedcoats employ 3 million Americans nationwide.  That's 23 million americans working for .gov.  .Gov outemploys Americans relative to the manufacturing sector by 1.8-to-1!  That's how fucked up this nation is.  It's time to split.  I want to live under the rule of law, with small .gov, and guaranteed individual freedoms. 

TradingIsLifeBrah's picture
TradingIsLifeBrah (not verified) Nemo DeNovo Mar 28, 2016 8:56 AM

We went from "Hope & Change" with Obama to "Fuck it, give me free shit" with Bernie.  Country is on its way to communism.  

PT's picture

I don't live in the US but I am middle aged and have been unemployed for a total of at least 2.5 years out of the last six years.  When unemployed, I mostly live off savings (make good money when I actually do work) which probably means that I do not show up on official govt statistics as "Unemployed" most of the time.

JRobby's picture

4.9% Storm The Castles!

NoPension's picture


To do the jobs lazy Americans won't do.

toady's picture

This would be a perfect spot for one of those  $67k a year from welfare articles. Why would anyone work for less than  $67k when they can get that and play Xbox all day!

NoPension's picture



JRobby's picture

Good one.

they have the "sickness" that the machine has ingrained in them because they were unable to resist it

PT's picture

Tell me again, how did we arrive at that $67k figure?  And how many people are actually eligble for the full $67k?  And what do they need to sign away in order to receive that full $67k?  Can any healthy, single, white, childless male or female get the whole $67k?  Or how many lies to they have to tell?

I don't live there so I really don't know.  If it's anything like my country then you'll notice that some suffer alot while others appear to live better than the minimum wage slaves.  The devil is, as usual, in the details.  Give us those details.  They mean a lot.

rbg81's picture

There IS a lot of outrage about bringing in so many immigrants when this many Americans can't find jobs.  But there really should be MOAR outrage....a lot moar.  The politicians that facilitate this should be hounded out of office...or worse.

The stupifying thing to me is that so many Blacks are okay with bringing in more immigrants when it undercuts their position in so many ways.  Unfortunately, they can't see beyond the politics of revenge.  As long as the MSM spins the newcomers as "People of Color" out to challenge "White privilege", Blacks seem fine with the influx.

Of course, the real reason for all the immigrants is corporate profits.  The corporations want to sell stuff and immigrants tend to need EVERYTHING.  The fact that they are buying it with Government $$ troubles them not at all.  They are not paying their share of the taxes and cash is cash.

Omen IV's picture

"the real reason for all the immigrants is corporate profits. The corporations want to sell stuff and immigrants tend to need EVERYTHING. "

NOT true - the real reasons are twofold - cheap labor for business  and voters for politicians

first The Immigration & Naturalization Act of 1965 was put in place by Democrats led by LBJ to replace the deep south white democratic vote alienated by the Voting Rights Act and School Busing  for Blacks and other black preference  programs - white people  went in mass to Republicans in the south  next

This practice was accelerated with illegal brown invasion - Mexicans in 1979  -  for another 30 million - both republican and democrats were paid to break the unions -  they allowed the border to stay porous and provide votes for democrats as whites were alienated by jobs taken away

White People are NOW expensive - they know what the wage levels "were"  - they know what this country was in the 1950's - they want that condition back again - so they want them DEAD quickly

Use to be the blacks were the most expensive - you had to build prisons / welfare / cops  and paramilitary /cheap ghetto  public housing / public facilities of all kinds   / remedial education  - all were very expensive - or they would ........ riot - now those costs are deemed to be cheap compared to labor savings shipping jobs offshore if they can retain the vote of that black block with benefits - blacks dont care about real jobs

The blacks see Food Stamps / government job preferences / get out of jail card  free / and welfare as the reason to vote for hillary - all the while  - for decades since the browns came in - the black unemployment rate is over 35% for prime males alone - all the browns that came in cost them jobs  - yet they vote for Hillary

They cant see that the government jobs will go away over the next ten years - cant be sustained at the state and local level - not enough sales taxes or property taxes - it will blow - then what?

so the need to reduce the White population to 25% of the electorate -  gets them permanent control with Black & Brown - and the ability to create currency  to finance war to take the worlds property at the point of  gun  and then leave the  USA carcass behind with bankruptcy


look at Ukraine now  empty shell - people all leaving - within 5 years - Monsanto owns the land for free with workers shipped in from the EU - same for US in 50 years.

rbg81's picture

I concur that votes and cheap labor are also reasons.  However, those things are also correlated with corporate profits. Consider:

1.  Those votes help keep the Entitlement state alive.  Which allows the receipients to frequent stores like Walmart and buy shit.  Result?  Increased corporate profits.  In fact, I'll wager that EBT cards account for at least one third of grocery store revenue these daze.

2.  Same thing with cheap labor.  Obviously leads to increased corporate profits.


So, what you said is consistent with my statement even if I didn't enumerate those points.  You can be sure that when corporate profits start being hurt, this shit will stop real fast.

ToSoft4Truth's picture

"If you're too lazy to do that job, we'll export it using TPP"


- Paul Ryan

LoneStarHog's picture

/sarcasm on/ Like anything government, it is ass backwards...The 4.9% are the number of people with FULL-TIME JOBS (i.e. 40-hours per week). /sarcasm off/

InflammatoryResponse's picture

the sad thing is that people actually believe those unemployment numbers. :(


JRobby's picture

It is. If or when more people know the truth, there will be a "reaction"

In the mean time, people blame themselves and get sick over it which stresses infrastucture even more.

ISEEIT's picture

"We impoverished some folk's".

NoPension's picture

My fav....

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

toady's picture

I remember hearing that for the first time back when I was with T and they were cutting the office down from 350+ to around 30 people. I made the cut, but the beatings were fierce. 

Still one of my go-tos. I also do;

I haven't had this much fun since the pigs ate my little brother. 


I haven't been this upset since Dylan went electric.

Insurrexion's picture



23% is a very sad number.

Come over to Europe to see what your future looks like.


...and wait until this happens:


50% unemployment means war. Killing is the best form of reducing unemployment and clearing out the old wood.

Hans-Zandvliet's picture

If you think that killing people BIG TIME is a good way to "clearing out the old wood", I suppose you (of course with your parrents and grandparrents) will volunteer to be the first in line.

pods's picture

Well, in a debt based money system it happens to hold true.  Too much debt stagnates things.

A good war tends to reset the clock. Kind of a bloody Shemitah or however it is spelled.


Firepower's picture

BIGov cares not about employment. So long as it has enough tax loot to placate MINOs from Marching, for the rest, it's Hunger Games For Kids http://wp.me/p2kmGE-BT

Government needs you to pay taxes's picture

ZH readers are unhappy 28 million working age Americans are not working.  How bout the 23 million americans that are collecting .gov paychecks?  You gettin' your money's worth from those welfare recipients?  They are the fat leeches sucking the blood from your balls. . .

replaceme's picture

Just because I hear this as a retort, over and over, what's happened to the number of kids in college? Has that demo suddenly exploded?

Insurrexion's picture



Seems like the American elite are setting up a fall in the fall.

I like this guy's assessment better. He nailed it.



DetectiveStern's picture

I hate how unemployment is reported in the mainstream. It's really simple as the above shows. "Are you employed by someone" if no then you are unemployed the reason is just details.


silverer's picture

College now educates in retrospect.  Once you graduate and start making those payments,  you look back and realize how smart you weren't to go in the first place.