Last week, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate has sank to 6.3%, its lowest level since September 2008.
Now let’s all be clear, 6.3% unemployment is still way too high. However, rather than get to work on promoting policy that will help to lower that number, Republican’s resorted to their well-established talking point they use every time the unemployment rate goes down, they claimed that it was only because many people have stopped looking for work.
For example, Speaker of the House John Boehner stated that “We welcome news that more of our friends and neighbors found work in the past month, this report also indicates more than 800,000 Americans left the workforce last month.”
RNC chair Reince Priebus jumped on board with the talking point by saying “We’re happy that more Americans were able to find work last month, but more and more people are dropping out of our workforce and giving up on finding a job.”
In addition, many Republicans believe that Americans are just lazy and don’t want to work. They believe that the financial support networks, like TANF, SNAP, and other related programs are so luxurious that Americans don’t need to work. This philosophy was most famously shown in Mitt Romney’s “47 Percent” comments.
This world view states that the reason that Americans are leaving the workforce is a combination of Obama’s bad economy and his support programs.
However, there are some very simple facts that the Republicans leave out of the discussion of why people are leaving the work force.
As has been predicted for as long as I can remember, Baby Boomers are leaving the work force at large numbers. While it is true that older employees are staying in the work force longer than in past years, because of the massive size of this population subset, we are seeing millions leaving the workforce annually.
Second, we have seen a significant increase in stay at home parenting. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data, we have seen a 6% increase in stay at home parenting since 1999. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, it became more and more common for mothers to enter the work force. This reality led to a generation of “latch key kids” who are now all grown up and choosing to be stay at home parents. In addition, for various reasons, the cost of child care has increased significantly over the past 20 years. We have also seen some significant changes in the acceptance of stay at home parents (especially stay at home mothers). This simple fact has taken millions of potential employees out of the jobs market.
Next, young people are staying in college longer. Now, I am not 100% sure if this is the best overall option. I join many others on this blog who feel that college is overpriced, leaves young people with huge amounts of debt and I realize that many well-paying jobs do not require a Bachelors or Master’s degree. However, during the economic downturn, people with college degrees were significantly more likely to remain employed than those without a degree. I went back to college as an adult, and I remember a classmate of mine who had worked for years in a career that did not require a degree. After having his position eliminated twice in 10 years, he decided he wanted the security of having a degree to increase his chances of finding more permanent employment. Studies show many Americans have done the same thing.
Finally, we have millions of employees who are not being counted. Due to Congresses’ inability to act on Immigration reform, we have millions of undocumented workers in the United States. These are people who want to work, but due to our hideous immigration policies, they are forced to break the law in order to be employed and to support their families. This is one example of when the problem is not the undocumented workers, the problem is the Government. However, Republicans tend to support policies that punish these workers for working and support enforcement that will rip families apart.
So while we all want to see unemployment numbers become lower, don’t believe it the next time Republicans blame Obama for the changes in the number of people in the workforce.