The Prime-Age Workforce and Labor Market Polarization

U.S. labor force participation by people in their prime working years fell substantially during the Great Recession, and it remains depressed despite some recovery since 2015. This appears to reflect longer-term developments, rather than lingering effects from the recession. One key factor is labor market polarization—manifested in the gradual disappearance of manual jobs—which helps predict declining worker attachment across states. This has been reinforced by other long-term economic and social trends, such as health considerations, that also have eroded prime-age labor force attachment.

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