Disappearing male workers are not a joke
By Terry Keenan
Quick question: What was the most startling element of the dreary December jobs report?
If you said it was that everyone seemed to have forgotten the fact that it tends to snow around Christmas, thus skewing the data — an idea supported by the White House — you’d be wrong.
The real shocker was the continued deterioration in labor participation by those who should be in the prime of their working lives — young and middle-age males.
While the labor-force participation rate dipped to a 36-year low, the trend for middle-age males was even more worrisome.
Just 71.8 percent of working-age men have a job or are looking for work — that’s a drop of more than 1 percentage point.
Although male workers were the hardest hit by the first blows of the Great Recession, their employment prospects bounced back in 2010 and early 2011.
But then things stalled.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research now estimates that 91 percent of women who lost their jobs in the wake of the housing bust have found new employment, while only 68 percent of US males can make the same claim.
The drop in the overall worker-participation rate, to 62.8 percent, is due solely to men, not women, dropping out of the job market.
The US numbers for men are resembling those in Spain and Italy.
Meantime, the female participation rate held steady at 54.9 percent, though even that is hardly something to crow about.
Economists are often quick to scoff at the high double-digit unemployment rates in southern Europe, pointing to an underground cash economy that ameliorates the official numbers.
Sure, a fair number of under-the-table transactions happen here, too, but not nearly enough to compensate for having only 70 percent of our able-bodied men in the workforce.
A walk down the Upper East Side of Manhattan at pickup time on a school day could animate the story.
Near P.S. 6, at 82nd and Madison Avenue, an eyeball estimate would conclude that about 30 percent of the kids are picked up by dads.
Little wonder, then, that Hollywood has stopped making sitcoms about the situation. Back in 2011 and 2012, the networks rolled out dude-coms about stay-at-home dads yukking it up in with other guys in the same situation.
Within months, two of the most heavily promoted — “Guys with Kids” and “Up All Night” — were canceled.
I guess that story line is entertaining only if the main characters could get another gig in a New York minute.