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Saturday, March 5, 2016

US Employment: Age-specific patterns of recovery

Mike Smitka, Economics, Washington and Lee University

Here's another quick cut on what's been happening over the past decade. Prior to 1997 employment as a percentage of the population in different age brackets was nearly constant. During the Great Recession older workers either didn't lose their jobs or found new ones. I only show the 55-59 age bracket, participation for older brackets actually rose, reflecting a longer-term trend. Meanwhile youth jobs vanished, but that (or the desire of those of high school age to work) had also been declining; I don't show that. The big hit was at the age where people would normally finish schooling, over ages 20-24. Their rate of employment fell 14% relative to base, and is now down 6%. Some of this may be an increased rate of schooling, and hence permanent, but there was no particular trend prior to 2007. Meanwhile most of the job losses were concentrated among prime-age workers, whose employment fell by 6% but now is down "only" 2.5% – which is still the lowest level over January 1994 - February 2016, the period for which data are available. If the slow rise of the past couple years continues, by mid 2017 – when the new president will take office – we'll be at the level prevailing prior to the Great Recession.