The unemployment surprise

Headline unemployment may be falling but this extract from John Mauldin summarises the US predicament:

We are employing almost 5% fewer people as a percentage of our population than we were at the beginning of 2008. That means our real unemployment-to-population level is well over 12%. So we’re not even close to where we were in 1999, during the last year of the Clinton administration. And that doesn’t take into account the 50% of college graduates who are underemployed. A significant part of the problem is simply the fact that we are trying to recover from a deleveraging recession. The data suggests that such recoveries may take 10 years. For Japan it is more than 20 years, and counting.

The unemployment surprise (pdf).

The Real Reasons People Drop Out of the Workforce

“Labor force participation for unskilled men has dropped off the table the last few decades,” [Timothy Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives] said. “Wages for that group aren’t high enough to encourage them to work. For a lot of those men, going on disability may be a better option. Working off the books may be going on. The benefits of working at $10 or $11 an hour just isn’t enticing 50-year-old men into the labor force,” he said.

Another factor in play: there were an estimated 2.3 million people in U.S. prisons at the end of 2010, the highest rate of incarceration in the world. That’s quadruple the number imprisoned in 1980. The rate of imprisonment has gone from 100 per 100,000 people in the mid-1970s to 500 per 100,000 today.

via The Real Reasons People Drop Out of the Workforce.