Friday, June 27, 2008

How Many Americans Actually Work?

When we ask the question on the surface it seems simple enough. Americans work. We like to work. We take satisfaction from our work. Right?

Yes, by and large we do.

But if you Google how many Americans are working in full time jobs you find that the numbers are not what we would expect. It was at this point that I cracked open Dr. Henry Liu, one of the economists I had a chance to study with and unlike the Friedman flat earth folks offered a sobering and starling statistics from the 2007 Department of Labor and BOE statistics:

Socialize Risk to Deliver Privatized Profit

Like their flawed attitude toward risk, the authorities in charge of regulating financial markets and the economy apparently think that inflation-fighting structural unemployment spread over the whole economic system is not damaging to the economy as long as the resultant profit is privatized and concentrated on a preferred selection of financial institutions, even if the privatized profit is achieved by externalizing the cost of risk to the entire financial system through structured finance. Free-market capitalists obviously think that socializing risk or unemployment is not dreaded evil socialism, only socializing profit is.

Drop in Labor Force Participation

Over third quarter of 2007, total payroll employment changes have averaged 44,000 new jobs per month, well below the monthly average of 147,000 new jobs between January and May. In August, employment in manufacturing, construction, and local government education declined, while job growth continued in health care and food services. The civilian labor force edged down to 152.9 million, and the labor force participation rate decreased to 65.8%. The declines were largely due to a drop in labor force participation among teenagers; their participation rate fell to 39.7%. Total employment in August was 145.8 million.

Wait a minute. I had to do a double take when I saw these numbers. That means that since we started on the road of socialized risk privatized profits outside of the generally accepted local market principles of capitalism, or even socialism, we have about half the people employed?That means that we have an average rate hovering around 50% of Americans are unemployed or underemployed!

Well sort of but not quite.Taking into account that these are only workers of working age, in a population of 310-320 million people, it could mean either half the population are retired or children, or too young to work.

No. I checked again.This includes a potential work force of 210 million people. So if we take 210 million people and divide it by 145 million in full employment we see that only 70% of all working age people in the United States are working. Among those a full 20% made up people working at or below the poverty line of $8,900.00 per year that is 29,000,000 people who when we add their families and children made up about 55,500,000 people.

Among the group those who made more than $100,000.00 per year were .09% of the total work force or 103,500 working people. Those who do not work but relied on capital gains for incomes between $100,000.00 to $300,000.00 were not included. Politicians were also not included in this list.

Is it any wonder there is a credit crisis?

Anyone want to discuss this?


Phrank said...


Pretty tricky thing to really get a good grip on, don't you think? I think the real answer to how many americans actually work is trickier than you reckon, and a simple count of how many people get paychecks is probably not the most accurate way to get a feel of, say, how many Americans are lazy freeloadin' hippies (if that's your point?)

How did you get your numbers, and what do or don't they take into account? Housewives/househusbands, who take care of our nations kids, and maybe educate themselves for the future? What about the self-employed? What about the mentally ill/disabled who rely on social security checks but help out at the soup kitchen? Convicted felons?

Maybe I was hearing you make assumptions you weren't, and if so I apologize, but two things to keep in mind are that (a) Not all Americans between ages 18 and 65 are able to work, and (b) You don't have to have a "job" to be a productive member of society.

Anonymous said...

I think a better heading would have been "how many americans actuallly pay taxes"
I have often wondered the answer to this. You also have to take into consideration people who are in jail, u.s. citizens working overseas, tax exempt - charities, churches, once you start going through the numbers you find a stagaring percentage.
I was once told in my finance class that the estimate is somewhere areound 37 - 47 percent.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are all quite right, not every American is able to work, and I don't begrudge those who truly can't their livelihood. However, when you take into account that many on disability seem just find to ride mountain bikes all over creation. 54.4 million Americans now claim a disability. I don't even know the rates on Welfare. Jail, let's not even get to that. And unemployment rates. Well, kinda depressing for the maybe 10% of us that actually do get up and go into work, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

I have two simple questions. I am wondering:

"How many people total in the United States are able to work?"

"How many people total in the United States don't work but are able to?"

Ed Pilolla said...

what's depressing and totally obvious by your comments, anonymous, is that you do not actually know any poor people in real life whatsoever. have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

BS, Ed. You don't have to "know poor people" (tho everyone DOES) to get a grasp of the reality that there aren't enough people working at wealth creating jobs (paying taxes) to support the people who either don't work or work at wealth-eating jobs (public sector) - REGARDLESS of the reason.

This problem goes much deeper when nearly HALF (or more) of those working are employed by the state in public sector jobs (salaries, benefits, pensions all paid by TAX PAYERS), which means private sector workers (tax payers) are supporting nearly 50 MILLION "workers" as well. No matter which form of welfare it is, be it social welfare for the poor, corporate welfare for the wealthy, or government welfare for politicians, or welfare for foreign states,, it's not sustainable, and NOBODY is doing anything to change or reverse this financial disaster.

Anonymous said...

Tax payers or workers are not the only form of revenue to the Government(s) at all levels. They also collect tariffs, duties, and fees from everything from foreign entities to individuals with mobile phone contracts or anything related to communications. So to make the comment that only those working outside government jobs are supporting is a misnomer. However, I do agree that this low labor force participation coupled with crony-democratism is destroying the work ethic in certain communities and regions of the country. At risk is the entire FED Reserve banking system as it copes to obtain both stock and printed currency to make a portfolio basket of revenue producing holdings to replace IRS collections and the lack of workers in the economy.