Not True: AP Claims Workforce Participation Rate 'Has Been Falling Steadily' Since 2000; No, Just Since 2009

The disgraceful lengths to which writers in the establishment press will rewrite history to paper over the economy's awful performance during the past five years is perfectly illustrated in one paragraph found in an otherwise decent Associated Press "Big Story" report ("Dropouts: Discouraged Americans leave labor force") Saturday evening by Paul Wiseman and Jesse Washington, with help from Chris "No chance of recession" Rugaber and Scott Mayerowitz.

The statement: "The participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent in 2000, reflecting an influx of women into the work force. It's been falling steadily ever since." The "fall" has not been "steady," nor has been the decline in the employment-population ratio (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics data retrievable here):


From the last half of 2004 unti late 2008, the participation rate was very stable, seldom varying by more than a couple of tenths of a point from 66.0% during that entire time. The real significant declines in the rate begin during the second half of 2009, just as the supposedly positive effects of Obama's stimulus plan were supposed to start kicking in.

The average annual decline in the participation rate from January 2000 until June 2009 was 0.17%. The average annual decline in the rate since then has been 0.64%, 3.8 times greater than that seen during the previous 9-1/2 years. "Steady," schmeady.

Though the employment-population ratio's decline began earlier, it actually rose from mid-2003 until early 2007. This would seem to contradict the implication in the AP statement quoted earlier that the entrance of higher numbers of women into the workforce stopped at the turn of the century. The sharp drop in the employment-population ratio during the recession and its non-recovery since then, though arguably more newsworthy, is largely traceable to Obama administration policies (only slightly mitigated by the early stages of the Baby Boomer retirement wave) -- which would appear to be why the AP reporters didn't want to discuss it.

As seen above, characterizing the workforce participation rate reduction as "steady" is clearly false. It conveniently keeps readers from learning that the vast majority of the fall has occurred since mid-2009. That is when the recession officially ended. This has occurred because the "stimulus"-based "solutions" to getting the economy on track have instead impeded it, resulting in by far the worst economic recovery -- if you can even call it that -- since Franklin Delano Roosevelt extended the Great Depression by over eight years (March 1933 until December 1941) with his "stimulative" and statist New Deal programs, policies, and postures.

The AP report did recognize an aspect of the employment problem that wire service has previously seemed reluctant to acknowledge:

Older Americans have retired early. Younger ones have enrolled in school. Others have suspended their job hunt until the employment landscape brightens. Some ... are collecting disability checks.

... Many older Americans who lost their jobs are finding refuge in Social Security's disability program. Nearly 8.9 million Americans are receiving disability checks, up 1.3 million from when the recession ended in June 2009.

Left unaddressed is how unemployed people in such large numbers are qualifying for "disability." Shouldn't the occurrence of physically and mentally disabling conditions be independent of whether or not one happens to be working when these conditions appear, or even more likely to occur when one is working and not unemployed? And despite the noble statements of intentions to go back to work by individuals AP interviewed for this story, how many disability recipients will carry through with that intention if doing so means that the tax-free disability checks will end?

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Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.