By Andy Smarick
We’re suffering a period of remarkably low labor-force participation. The national unemployment rate was only 4.4 percent in August, but just 62.9 percent of the U.S. population is working or looking for work. Ten years ago, before the recession, the number was 65.8 percent. There are around 7 million prime-age men disengaged from work right now. Women’s labor-force participation has dropped, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that just 56.7 percent of U.S. women were working or looking for work in 2015, down from 60.0 percent in 1999.
What’s anomalous is that, according to federal data released in August, there are 6.2 million open jobs in the United States. How can so many people be out of work while so many jobs are available? Part of the explanation is the “skills gap,” the mismatch between what employers need and what the out-of-work possess. In June, the Business Roundtable reported half of its members were having difficulty finding applicants with “employability skills” like math, the ability to read technical manuals, and complex problem-solving. Similarly, the July survey of the National Federation for Independent Businesses found that 35 percent of its members were unable to fill openings—the highest rate since 2001.
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