The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
The New Work in the New World Job Creation Is Up To You

Behold the newest proof of America’s unemployment crisis: The United Kingdom now outdoes the United States in workforce participation. The FT reports that for the first time in 36 years the UK rate (63.6 percent) is higher than the U.S. rate (63 percent). The numbers are particularly striking for younger workers:

Among 25-34 year olds, UK participation is up from 84.3 per cent to 85.4 per cent between 2007 and 2013. Over the same period in the US, participation fell from 83.3 per cent to 81.8 per cent.

According to the FT, economists aren’t sure exactly why the United States is lagging behind. More research into the Brits’ economic resiliency would be much appreciated. Meanwhile, though, the discussion of workforce participation in America is oddly limited. Pundits assume that “job creation” is a matter of federal policy. The government should either do certain things, or refrain from doing certain things, to create make-work for the unemployed. Younger Americans hear those messages and begin to think of themselves as passive beneficiaries of “job creation.” They begin to think they can sit idly until the government or the economy offer them a 9–5 office job.

This is not how the world works today. The turmoil of the new information and service economy means that millennials will have to be their own job creators if they want to work. Yes, government policy plays a key role in either suppressing or facilitating general job creation and economic growth. But that should not obscure the fact that younger Americans will have to depend more on their own capacities to freelance, innovate, or offer new services to the larger population.

Published on March 26, 2014 9:06 am
  • Anthony

    “There ‘s no use in pretending. In spite of the enduring belief that Americans enjoy greater social mobility than their European counterparts, America is no longer the land of opportunity. Nothing illustrates what has happened more vividly than the plight of today’s twenty-year-olds. Instead of starting a new life, fresh with enthusiasm and hope, many of them confront a world of anxiety and fear….” Into such environment Feed offers a way. Yet on many levels, young Americans are experiencing what economists label a duel economy. In fact given that for most people wages are the most important source of income, present macroeconomic and monetary policies have mitigated against young workers and the way forward will certainly entail more than innovative individual job creation.

  • Andrew Allison

    “Younger Americans hear those messages and begin to think of themselves
    as passive beneficiaries of “job creation.” They begin to think they can
    sit idly until the government or the economy offer them a 9–5 office
    job.” says it all.

  • Thirdsyphon

    Is it really so odd that workforce participation is declining now that the boomers are aging into retirement and life expectancy continues to increase? The Department of Labor needs to put a cap on the maximum age at which people are included in this statistic (it doesn’t now).

    • Jim__L

      Er, the snippet from this article specifically caps the age of the sample at 35.

      • Thirdsyphon

        Good point. I stand corrected.

  • Jim__L

    Who are those 25-34 year olds that are not participating in the labor force?

    If 18.2% of single, childless, or male citizens are unemployed, this is a huge problem.

    If on the other hand, they are married moms taking care of kids, 35% (of women) or so non-participation is actually a bit low.

  • Anon

    I don’t ANYONE (let alone a millennial) who thinks they can come by a job by just sitting around and relying on the government. Maybe you should actually befriend a few “Younger Americans” and listen to their stories before passing judgement.