Wednesday, December 15, 2010

USA Today; American Workforce Graying as the Young Increasingly Locked Out of Workforce

I won't make any jokes about 40-50 year old B.A.'s taking the jobs the 16-24 set once held at our Burger King and Walmart's... but this story in USAToday should come as no surprise.  We discussed it some 2+ years ago in [Sep 1, 2008: AP - Laboring Longer is Growing Trend for Americans] and it is the equivalent of a national mortgage crisis, but strung out over decades rather than 4-5 years - hence much less apparent. Back in 2008 I wrote:

....highlights what I see as a very long term 'emergency' in America.  Due to financial illiteracy, spending over our heads, inflation costs that are far higher than wages, the "I deserve this even if I cannot afford it" ethos, healthcare costs, tuition costs, energy costs, food costs, not to mention making nothing in the stock market for at least a decade (if not outright losing a lot - see NASDAQ bubble), along with many losing in the real estate bubble, along with the switch from company supported retirement benefits to "do it yourself" 401(k)s. Well you get the idea - it simply is becoming much harder for the "middle class" or "working class" types to keep up in this country as more and more jobs being created are lower paying than those shipped overseas and many benefits their parents had are going the way of the dodo bird. will see over the next 15-25 years the "cost" to the vast majority who won't strike it rich. Many of these people now will have to support both their aging parents along with helping their kids.   Since this lifestyle erosion is happening over a very long period of time it won't get the headlines but this is the reality - a generation who will work until they drop - I call it the Walmart greeter generation (but you can throw Lowe's, Home Depot, Kmart, Target and a few others in there) People not in the upper 5-10% are simply being squeezed from every which angle and the long term trends are ominous. People will survive but it will be a drop in lifestyle or as I call it "The Pooring of America"

Now, a part of this is people are living longer than in the 80s but life expectancy has not increased *that* much in 3 decades... the reality is a world of 1 income, pension earner type of families is long gone except in the government sector, and left to their own devices a lot of people either live only for today (by choice rather than lack of income) or due to income simply cannot save for the long term due to cost of living in the country.  Obviously the two 'jobless recoveries' of the past decade have not helped - and frankly many of the new 'service' jobs replacing those that have been shipped overseas (or made obsolete through technology) don't pay nearly the same... indeed many men make less now (inflation adjusted) than they did in the 1970s. [Sep 2, 2010: NYT - New Jobs Mean Lower Wages for Many]  [this is an often ignored point in the media, as we only look at job creation/destruction but do not ask what the replacement jobs are - and how much they pay, versus what has been lost the past few decades - replacing millions of $48-60K jobs with $34-42K jobs causes a huge dislocation over time]

Simply put the idea of retirement is going to mean a very different thing in the real world go forward, than you see on the cozy TV commercials.  "Work til you drop" will be more common; and in the past I did not think about the effect of this on the young - many are being squeezed out of jobs by elder folk and hence will start their career further behind.  (many with college debt to boot)  Once more - the global labor pool has expanded by a few hundred million in the past 20 years (and only rising as education standards improve overseas)... there is only so much work to go around.  Basic economics 101 - much more supply of labor, a rising (but at much slower pace) amount of jobs = price of work goes down in aggregate.  It is all connected..

Via USAToday:
  • The number of people 55 and older holding jobs is on track to hit a record 28 million in 2010 while young people increasingly are squeezed out of the labor market, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
  • The portion of people ages 16-24 in the labor market is at the lowest level since the government began keeping track in 1948, falling from 66% in 2000 to 55% this year. There are 17 million in that age group who are employed, the fewest since 1971 when the population was much smaller.
  • By contrast, people in their 50s, 60s or 70s are staying employed longer than at any time on record. For example, 55% of people ages 60 to 64 were in the labor market during the first 11 months of 2010, up from 47% for the same period in 2000.
  • "What's striking about this recession is that people 62 and older — those eligible for Social Security — are increasing their participation in the labor force," says Richard Johnson, an economist at the Income and Benefits Policy Center of the non-partisan Urban Institute. All groups younger than 55 have declining shares of the population in the labor force.
  • Johnson says a change in economic incentives — such as raising the retirement age for full Social Security benefits and creating tax breaks — have made it more rewarding to work at an older age.
  • Better health, longer lives and less physically damaging jobs have prompted people to work longer. But it's not all good news.  "Most people work longer because they have to," says Carl Van Horn, director of the Heldrich Center of Workforce Development at Rutgers University. "Many can't afford to drop out of the labor market without severe financial implications."
  • That can indirectly hurt young workers, he says. "There are only so many jobs to go around," he says, and older workers have a job advantage that younger ones don't: experience.

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