Opinion: What Will Finally Lift Wages for Middle Earners

The civilian labor-force-participation rate peaked in the 1990s, and has been falling steadily ever since.

There are many factors that have been driving this lower, including demographics. The gender differential is noteworthy: For men, labor-force participation began moving steadily lower right after World War II around 1948; for women, it peaks around 1999, started drifting lower and then really took a leg down after the financial crisis.

After that crisis, many frustrated workers decided to leave the labor force rather than accept a significantly lower-paying job. These folks are not retired or on disability, but simply become NILFs (“not in labor force”). There have been recent signs that they are coming back into the labor pool.

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