"Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the president's policies are making people's lives harder."
- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), responding to State of the Union speech
This has become a familiar theme by Republicans, but the decline in the labor participation rate is largely due to factors beyond President Barack Obama's control - namely the retirement of the Baby Boom generation. When Obama took office in January 2009, the workforce participation rate was 65.7 percent - and now it is at 62.8%. So there has certainly been a decline. The rate had already been on a steady downward track since it hit a high of 67.3 percent in the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2012 concluded that half of the post-1999 decline in the participation rate comes from the retirement of the baby boomers. Critically, the research showed that the problem is only going to get worse in the rest of the decade, with retirements accounting for two-thirds of the decline of participation rate by 2020. In other words, the rate will keep declining, no matter how well the economy does.
The Obamacare Watch
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor falsely claims that a new report confirms the long-held Republican belief that "millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs," because of the Affordable Care Act. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report says more than 2 million people will decide not to work, or will decide to work less, due to the law - not that they will "lose their jobs." The CBO report, Feb. 4: "The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses' demand for labor." The CBO report says in the short term (2014 to 2016) the law will increase employment. With unemployment expected to remain higher than normal over the next few years, the CBO states, even if some people decide to work less, "other applicants will be readily available to fill those positions and the overall effect on employment will be muted." Meanwhile, the report notes, subsidies to low-income Americans will lead to those people spending money on other things that create jobs.