In a note seeking to "explain" why the US labor participation rate just crashed to a nearly 40 year low earlier today as another half a million Americans decided to exit the labor force bringing the total to 94.6 million people...
... this is what the Atlanta Fed has to say about the most dramatic aberration to the US labor force in history: "Generally speaking, people in the 25–54 age group are the most likely to participate in the labor market. These so-called prime-age individuals are less likely to be making retirement decisions than older individuals and less likely to be enrolled in schooling or training than younger individuals."
This is actually spot on; it is also the only thing the Atlanta Fed does get right in its entire taxpayer-funded "analysis."
However, as the chart below shows, when it comes to participation rates within the age cohort, while the 25-54 group should be stable and/or rising to indicate economic strength while the 55-69 participation rate dropping due to so-called accelerated retirement of baby booners, we see precisely the opposite. The Fed, to its credit, admits this: "participation among the prime-age group declined considerably between 2008 and 2013."
And this is where the wheels fall off the Atlanta Fed narative. Because the regional Fed's very next sentence shows why the world is doomed when you task economists to centrally-plan it:
The decrease in labor force participation among prime-age individuals has been driven mostly by the share who say they currently don't want a job. As of December 2014, prime-age labor force participation was 2.4 percentage points below its prerecession average. Of that, 0.5 percentage point is accounted for by a higher share who indicate they currently want a job; 2 percentage points can be attributed to a higher share who say they currently don't want a job.
And there you have it: there are nearly 100 million working-age Americans who could be in the labor force, but are not "mostly" because they don't want a job.
Nothing about the lack of job demand as mega corporations continue to lay workers off in droves instead of hiring, instead using every last dollar of free cash flow to buyback their own stock to boost executive compensation instead of growing their company and hire more workers.
Nothing about the collapse in small business formation - that driver of 80% of US employment - as firm exit rates are now greater than firm entry rates
Nothing about the inability to get a job in a world in which the rest of the global is lapping the US in educational and labor skills.
Nothing about the US economy never having left the post-2008 depression where $4.5 trillion in Fed credit was created just to boost the S&P to all time highs and never making it to the actual economy (until the helicopters finally start paradropping of course)
Nothing about millions of aging, 55 and over, Americans refusing to retire or quit their job simply because they have no return on their savings to fall back on thank to the Fed's ZIRP, thus keeping the labor pipeline clogged and preventing younger Americans from getting promoted and achieving better paying jobs.
Nothing about a Millennial generation encumbered with $1 trillion in debt, that is so terrified of its job prospects and having to pay down its debt, it choose instead to keep rolling and piling on to this debt by remaining in college indefinitely
Nothing about the perverted incentive structure of a welfare state that makes it more attractive to collect generous government handouts which end up punishing hard work.
None of that.
You see, it is because Americans "mostly don't want a job."
And these are the pompous academic "intellectuals" who are supposed to micromanage the US economy. But how can they fix the biggest problem facing the US economy when they fail to even accurately diagnose what the problem is?
Which, incidentally, is why the same old Fed tools will be used and abused in hopes of kicking the can down a few more months at at time, be it QE 4, 5, 100, or ever more negative rates, both of which are coming.
How long will this continue? Now that is a very simple question: it will continue until the dollar loses its reserve status, just like the pound before it, and the livre before that, and the guilder before that, and so on.