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US Employment-Population Ratio Hits a New Low: Why It Matters for the Budget Debate

Monday, August 8, 2011 13:53
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By and large, U.S. media have spun the July employment report as more positive than negative. The 117,000 new payroll jobs created last month and the upward revisions for May and June were a relief after two months of very bad data. The downtick in the unemployment rate, although slight, was also welcome. One indicator that rarely makes the headlines told a different story, however. The employment-population ratio fell to a new low of 58.1 percent. What does it mean? Why should we care?

We should care, because the sinking employment-population ratio has big implications for the budget debate. The cuts-only faction of budget balancers are demanding a cap on federal government spending at 18% of GDP. They tout that as a level we lived with happily in the past, and should therefore be happy to live with in the future. The trouble is, the future isn’t going to be like the past. The smaller the fraction of the population that is working, the harder it becomes to put the country’s fiscal affairs in order. That becomes even clearer if we take a closer look at the reasons the ratio is falling. Read More >>>

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