"It's Worse Than The Great Depression" - One In Six Prime-Aged Men Has No Job

Tyler Durden's picture

While Obama has repeatedly touted the sub-5.0% unemployment rate (4.9% most recently) as confirmation his "economic recovery" has been successful, what has received far less media attention has been the unprecedented surge in Americans no longer in the labor force, which as of August stood at a near-record 94.4 million.

And while the traditional response by economic apolists and the media has been that this number is the result of a demographic change in US society, with mostly older workers no longer in the labor pool, we have over the years argued that that is misleading, and that millions of prime-aged workers have fallen out as a result of drastic changes to America's job market, coupled with structural lack of demand for legacy jobs, which has - for example - sent the number of employed waiters and bartenders to all time highs even as the number of manufacturing workers is lower than it was in December 2014.



Overnight, NPR confirmed precisely what we have claimed for so long, when it said that while the nation's unemployment rate is half of what it was at the height of the Great Recession: saying that the unempoyment number "hides a big problem: Millions of men in their prime working years have dropped out of the workforce — meaning they aren't working or even looking for a job."

Citing a recent report by Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, NPR notes that 83% of men in the prime working ages of 25-54 who were not in the labor force had not worked in the previous year. So, essentially, 10 million men are missing from the workforce.

Putting that number in context, in the 1960s, nearly 100 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. That's fallen over the decades.

The condemnation of Obama's "recovery" is dire: "One in six prime-age guys has no job; it's kind of worse than it was in the depression in 1940," says Nicholas Eberstadt, an economic and demographic researcher at American Enterprise Institute who wrote the book Men Without Work: America's Invisible Crisis. He says these men aren't even counted among the jobless, because they aren't seeking work. According to Eberstadt little is known about the missing men, but there are numerous factors that make men less likely to be in the labor force — a lack of college degree, being single, or being black.

Why are men leaving? And what are they doing instead? An anecdote from NPR sheds some light:

They might be like Romeo Barnes. He lives in District Heights, Md., and his last job as a Wal-Mart greeter ended 11 years ago. He's 30, black, single and has cerebral palsy.

"I have able-bodied friends who can't find work, so it's not just me," Barnes says.


He says he has sought administrative jobs but that his disability and not having a college degree hold him back.


"Men are traditionally known for labor work. The lower-educated guys have to do stuff like that. And that's being taken away because we have machines," he says.


Indeed, economists say technology and overseas competition are displacing many jobs. The number of people collecting disability insurance, like Barnes, has also increased.


AEI's Eberstadt says criminal records may also play a factor. Some 20 million Americans have felony convictions — the vast majority of whom are men. But, he says, it's hard to know how big a factor that is, because the government doesn't keep data on their employment status.


"Something on the order of one out of every eight adult men has got a felony conviction, and we don't have the slightest clue as to their employment patterns," Eberstadt says.

What the missing men aren't doing in large numbers is staying home to take care of family. 40% of nonworking women are primary caregivers; that's true of only 5 percent of men out of the workforce. But they do exist: take the example of Virginia Beach dad Jory Rekkedal quit his IT job a year ago to take care of his two girls — a gig he has loved.

"I wasn't going to go back to work. It was almost going to just be a nice transition into retirement for me — a very early retirement. I mean, I'm only 36 years old," he says.

And if he does go back to work, he worries about the prospects.


"Things move really, really, really quick [in IT], and I'm worried that if we can't make it work, that I'm going to go looking for a job and they're going to say two years out of it, 'Sorry, brother, you don't have what it takes to work here anymore,' " Rekkedal says.

Tara Sinclair, chief economist for job-search site Indeed.com, says brawny jobs are being replaced by brainy ones, and that trend doesn't favor men. "The question is, is this the new normal? Or, with the right economic conditions, the right opportunities, will those people come back into the labor market?" she says.

It gets worse: Sinclair says if men keep exiting the workforce, that could strain the social safety net and hold back economic growth. Some, like Richard Hintzke, say they hope to go back to work. He shuttered his Detroit home-appraisal business after the housing market crashed in 2009 and considered his options.

"You know, it looked like the sky was falling, so it was like, if there was ever a good time to disengage, I said, this is a good time," he says. Hintzke, who is 53 and doesn't have children, relocated to Austin, Texas, and has lived off income from investment properties.


He says he misses the camaraderie he felt while working and the feeling of contributing something. These days, he's mulling a new career in holistic healing. But once you're out of work for a while, he admits, it's easy to lose momentum.

For now, however, there is little hope to get those tens of millions of inert prime-aged workers back into the labor force, and absent a substantial overhaul, coupled with reschooling of those who have been out of the workforce, the chances this troubling trend will reverse are slim to none. Meanwhile, it means that as the class and wealth divide courtesy of the Fed accelerates, the numbers of increasingly angry people who feel justifiably left out, will continue to rise, until one day not even all the government's social safety nets will be able to prevent what comes next.

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Zero-Hegemon's picture

And this demographic has the highest suicide rate

VinceFostersGhost's picture



Eight years of......YES WE CAN!!!

Zero-Hegemon's picture

I think you mean "Si Sue Puedes", now I'm triggered

MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

A lot of people are working as bloggers and app developers though. These people are having a ball and some are making a fortune. I find it quaint that some people still reminisce for the manufacturing days. The modern world is a great place to live and work - embrace it.

Havoc Squad's picture

A lot of people are working as 'website traffic managers' and 'pop-up ad developers' though. These people are having a ball and some are making a fortune. I find it quaint that some people still reminisce for the manufacturing days. The modern world is a great place to live and work - embrace it.


2001 Version of your statement.  Just as much bullshit today.

Shocker's picture

We are in a depression, if you don't think so then your not looking

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


Handful of Dust's picture

I do notice the highways are packed during working hours when I take off using one of my "mental health" days.  I always wonder, "Why aren't these people at work?"

Try going to walmart 9-5 and you'll see it packed and the parking lot full of purple Escalades. Mostly filling the handicap spaces, too! It's almost painful going inside and witnessing how many people are using EBT cards to buy large slabs of beef, Crisco, etc. The EBT cards are usually stuffed in their purse between their Section 8 voucher and their Medicare card.




HappyDeathMetal's picture

yeah what the hell do people do? how many people actually do real work? 

SafelyGraze's picture

the answer is as obvious as it is simple:

more, and larger, correctional facilities

second answer involves using folks on the payroll to teach a lesson to folks off the payroll 


gen mcarthur 


Consuelo's picture





He's re-united with Mary Jo now...

RiverRoad's picture

Just try seeking work after the age of 54.  Good luck with that:  Those unfortunate people who were 54 in 2008 are now 62.

Paul Kersey's picture

What's not mentioned in the article is the over $2 trillion underground economy in the US.  From the WP in 2013:


 "Richard Cebula and Edgar Feige estimated that as much as “18-19 percent of total reportable income is not properly reported to the IRS." That's as much as $2 trillion in underground economic activity, with about $500 billion in taxes that aren't being paid to the government.

And here's another suggestive piece of evidence that the shadow economy has been growing during the downturn. The amount of U.S. currency in circulation has been soaring in the last six years, from $803 billion in 2007 to $1.18 trillion in March of 2013.   Some of that reflects growing overseas demand for dollars. But some of it could reflect growth in unreported economic activity in the United States — people getting paid under the table in cash, say."

And worldwide:

"This is the do-it-yourself economy of the world. There are 1.8 billion people, half the workers in the world, who are now working off the books, and that number is rising," said Neuwirth at the 2011 PopTech conference in Camden, ME. "The total value [of this economy] is $10 trillion. That’s astounding. It’s an amazing powerful force of enterprise for the world."

ZD1's picture

Illegals and others in California work in the underground economy and collect entitlements like welfare, EBT, etc.


It's no wonder that California has almost a third of the US welfare entitlement costs?

JohnG's picture

And this is a great thing, and I help it every chance I get.  I look for ways to avoid feeding leviathan.

Starve the beast.

HRH of Aquitaine's picture
HRH of Aquitaine (not verified) Paul Kersey Sep 7, 2016 11:43 AM


MyKillK's picture

What are you talking about? Almost ALL the net jobs created after the 08/09 bust have gone to the 55+ crowd....


MFL8240's picture

Does not matter if people work, as long as the stock market goes up for the TRIBE is all they care about!

crossroaddemon's picture

Only because people are fucking brainwashed. You still have too many idiots who think they are their job, and that there's some kind of dignity in wage slavery. I've always thought when the crisis came people would come to see unemployment for the opportunity it is. I was wrong.

Shizzmoney's picture

You can thank debt, whatever the type it is, to crush those dreams.

Oh, and the usurous Fed, too. 

Zero-Hegemon's picture

Headline update: "One In Six Prime-Aged Men Wish They Had Leaned a Trade"

King Tut's picture
King Tut (not verified) Zero-Hegemon Sep 7, 2016 11:05 AM

I know a lot of tradesmen who have moved onto other careers like trucking because after 2008 the Mexicans came in and drove the wages for tradesmen into the ground- $12-15 an hour vs the $30+ guys used to get pre-2008

Kidbuck's picture

You are right. Was a truck mechanic for 30 years. Saw real wages go down every year. Some shops in Tucson for example don't even pay minimum wage. There are more Mexican speaking mechanics in the US than English. The ASE, the certifying org. for mechanics, gives more tests in spanish than english. Shit, in Arizona some even live in Mexico and commute daily to jobs in the US. Some of these even work in shops that have contracts to work on Border Patrol vehicles. I've seen illegals driving around Nogales USA in marked Border Patrol vehicles. BP vehicles are left in shops staffed by illegals overnight. No security risk there.

The only saving grace is that would be terrorists are just as stupid and lazy as the Border Patrol.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

That must be why opportunities for self employment have taken off in the last 8 years......

Large corporations have the power to increase barriers to entry to not allow small business to have a chance.  Look at the numbers.


Falling Down's picture

42, white male, here.

The suicide rate among my demograhic, within the last 3 years, is appalling, and getting worse.

King Tut's picture
King Tut (not verified) Sep 7, 2016 10:41 AM

Yes- go sit in traffic, work your balls off for some asshole you hate and pay 40% of your labor back to the govt- sounds like a great fucking deal while at the same time  the Fed prints trillions of $ and hands it out to Wall St

Zero-Hegemon's picture

Sitting in traffic would be a nice side gig considering I'm sitting in it over 400 hours per year.

Raymond K Hessel's picture

400 hours per year? Are you retired?

Zero-Hegemon's picture

40 hours a month, do the math, don't worry I'm looking for something closer

crossroaddemon's picture

If you accept anything less than  the full value of what you create then there is something fucking wrong with you. I haven't worked for anyone else in over a decade.

HappyDeathMetal's picture

what if u have no choice? not everyone struggling is screwed up. I have no choice at the moment but be a wage slave but it is a stepping stone to working for myself as my own boss. what kind of work do u do and have u ever had to work for a low hourly wage?

tarsubil's picture

I guess I'm really doing my part. I'm at a job where I do practically nothing, consume very little (fill up my garbage can less than once a month while neighbor's is overflowing every week), no debt, physical gold and silver. Everything I do is to undermine the current system of wage slavery and debt serfdom. Who knew being a revolutionary would be so easy?

IridiumRebel's picture

But the other demographics will pick up the slack...right? RIGHT?

Killdo's picture

Things are changing - I saw a great sculpture yesterday on a cover of a newspaper (in SF public library) - a huge guillotine with CHANEL logos on it. I actually had the same idea about 2 yearsa ago (I got the idea from someone's avatar here on ZH - I was gong to make it without any logos and bigger) - but I never had time to make it. 

Normally American modern art is shit, boring , predictable and painful to watch - like a Holluywood movie. With no insights and nothing to say. But this sculpture is like a great foreign (French? ) movie - I can't wait to see it live the exhibition starts on teh 16th of Sep at Yerba Buena centre here in SF. The artist is called Tom Sachs

Shizzmoney's picture


Tara Sinclair, chief economist for job-search site Indeed.com, says brawny jobs are being replaced by brainy ones, and that trend doesn't favor men. "The question is, is this the new normal?

God, eCONomists are dumb.

Tactical Joke's picture

What? Men aren't smart. Honestly, how many world-changing scientific discoveries have been found by men. Name one, I dare you.

Erik will back me on this. He knows the only thing men are good at is oppressing women.

Tactical Joke's picture

Lies! He was actually a transgender female!

HappyDeathMetal's picture

he only had success because of his whiye privilege. he probably stole the idea from a black guy he kept chained in his basement. and he beat his wife too.

BorisTheBlade's picture

Does that trend favour people who can get the shit done?

Killdo's picture

I think American women (the younger ones ) don't really like when you can get things done - they like you to have money but to not have much confidence or skills - so they feel less useless themselves. That's been my impression here over last decade or so. 

Bill of Rights's picture

Why work when the check is in the mail. As long as one has a basement to occupy, a little food here and there as the drug dependency keeps the hunger pains down and Cable TV to watch all the Hillary rallies and Jerry Springer, life is good. A classic Democratic society.

crossroaddemon's picture

I used to think this was a good thing... that the more people were forced out of the industrial wage slave economy the more adaptations we would see towards learning to live outside of it. By now I expected to see people en masse squatting in vacant houses, trading for basic necessities on black markets, and learning to grow food. I now realize I underestimated by an order of magnitude the level of .gov intervention we would get in the form of welfare expansion, and I was wildly optimistic about popular adaptations. I should have known... whole populations have starved due to normalcy bias.

Killdo's picture

most young Americans (from 'best' universities) I know here in SF don't even know you need to water plants, letalone how to plant vegetables etc. We are entering the dark age where all the knowledge of useful things is fast forgotten. 

Luckily it's not like that in other countries - I see it only here in teh USSA

GhostofBastiat's picture

Brawndo...its what plants crave!  It has electrolytes!

Allen_H's picture

LOL! So what do they learn in those damn schools? Besides fag shite that is.

meco1999's picture

African Lesbian Feminist Literature, Climate Change As Settled Science, liberal-biased-and-sanitized American History, and "Check Your Privilege."

ZD1's picture

Most of the libtard progs in SF think that their water comes out of the faucet and don't realize that most of their water is brought in hundreds of miles away from the Hetch Hetchy water reservoir in Yosemite.