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The American Working Man Still Isn’t Working

Our Economic Recovery Has Left Many Behind

General Motors assembly workers picket during the United Auto Workers (UAW) national strike in Bowling Green, Kentucky, September 2019. REUTERS / Bryan Woolston

The United States is in the midst of its longest-ever economic recovery. It has been a slow climb out of the depths of the 2008–9 financial crisis, but the upward trend is now in its 11th year. American workers have seen 107 consecutive months of job growth, more than double the previous record, and the unemployment rate will soon reach its lowest level in over 50 years. However, there is one important economic indicator that still hasn’t rebounded to pre-crisis levels: the employment rate among prime-age men—that is, men between the ages of 25 and 54.

On the eve of the recession at the end of 2007, 12.8 percent of prime-age men didn’t have jobs. Now that figure stands at 13.7 percent. The headline unemployment rate for this group has fallen—from four percent to 3.1 percent—but only because many of these men have simply given up looking for work. When they stopped actively searching

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