SCENE: Mitch BERG is driving down the road, when he notices Avery LIBRELLE by the side of the road. LIBRELLE is standing by the trunk of a Chevy Volt; on the trunk is perched a miniature windmill, attached by cables to a terminal under the Volt’s open hood. LIBRELLE is blowing on the windmill.
BERG sighs, pulls over. He gets out of the car, notes that there is no wind – it’s a flat calm – and walks up to LIBRELLE.
BERG: Hey, what’s…
LIBRELLE: Hah, Merg! The economy is doing fantastic! You were wrong!
BERG: Um, what now?
LIBRELLE: Unemployment is under 6%
BERG: That’s that’s because so many people have left the workforce, as we see on this chart here…:
…which is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Labor Force Participation Rate, representing the percentage of the labor force – able-bodied people between 16 and 70 – that are actually working. As you can see, since Obama’s election, that number has plummeted from the mid-sixties to under 63%. .
And six percent of them are unemployed, which means that the actual share of the population that’s working is more like this:
That’s the labor force participation rate minus the unemployed. Now, if there were an economic recovery going on, that number would be ticking back up.
LIBRELLE: Hah, Hah, Hah, Merg! You’ve been watching too much Faux News! (Goes back to blowing on the windmill, spinning the blades madly)
BERG: That’s pronounced “foh”, not “fowks”.
LIBRELLE: Standard pronunciation is a microaggression of the patriarchy! Anyway – you lie. The labor force participation rate is dropping because Baby Boomers are retiring! Hah!
BERG: That’s a great theory – because statistics show that older people are working less, and that hours and productivity are ticking up among people in their prime working years.
LIBRELLE: Hah! Got that right! (LIBRELLE blows on the windmill some more)
BERG: Except that both of those statements are untrue. Neither is actually the case.
Older workers are the only group of workers who are actually increasing their share of the workforce:
And the “inactivity rate” of men between the ages of 25 and 54 – the prime income-earning years – is double what it was during the Reagan Administration…
…and a good third above what it was under Dubya. And since the “end” of the recession, it’s just kept climbing.
LIBRELLE: So you admit you lied to me?
LIBRELLE: By saying that the stats said one thing, and then showing that they said another!
LIBRELLE: (Resumes blowing on windmill)
BERG: What are you doing?
LIBRELLE: My car ran out of battery. I’m trying to give it a sustainable jump start.
BERG: With a…
LIBRELLE: With a Personal Wind Generator.
LIBRELLE: I got it at Sharpened Image. It was $499.
BERG: Don’t you mean “Sharper Image?”
LIBRELLE: No. Sharpened. It’s from Nigeria.
BERG: Huh. Have a great week.
LIBRELLE continues blowing on windmill as BERG walks to his car.