The Great Shift: Where Have All The Workers Gone?

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New White Paper by Express Employment Professionals Illuminates Causes and Consequences of America’s Declining Labor Force Participation Rate

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The Great Shift Whitepaper

We see unemployment ticking down and think things are getting better, but for the last few years, there’s been this unsettling trend that demands more focus.

Express Employment Professionals today released a white paper ahead of Labor Day that shines a light on the growing damage done to workers and the country because so many American job seekers have quit looking for work.

In post-recession America, the labor force participation rate (LFPR)—or percentage of adults who have a job or are looking for one—has declined to a 34-year low.

The decline is a “tragedy in the making, and its impact on the country has been underestimated. When Americans quit looking for work because they conclude not working beats working, America faces a significant problem,” the white paper reports.

The paper answers the pressing question, “Where have all the workers gone?” It also breaks down the causes and consequences of low labor force participation.

Baby Boomers’ retirement is one of the causes of the low LFPR and perhaps the most obvious one, but their retirement is only half the story. Younger Americans are giving up and leaving the workforce in a trend that has been called surprising, unexpected and unprecedented. In addition, more Americans than ever are trapped in taxpayer funded social safety nets.

The coming crisis isn’t caused by a lack of available jobs. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are nearly 4 million jobs available right now. But Boomers and Millennials alike are feeling the impact of the skills gap: the skills employers need are not the skills job-seekers possess.

This worker exodus has serious implications for America’s competitiveness, the country’s immigration policy and the survival of the social safety nets. Governments, businesses, schools and workers all have a role to play in reversing an alarming trend.

“Following the Great Recession, we've entered into the Great Shift,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “This is a period defined by the Boomer retirement, Millennial frustration, and growing reliance on government programs. All indicators suggest this shift is not sustainable, which means we need action on everything from immigration policy to job training.

“Labor force participation is an issue too often overlooked in the headlines. We see unemployment ticking down and think things are getting better, but for the last few years, there’s been this unsettling trend that demands more focus. We have to come to terms with what it means for our economy before more damage is done,” Funk said.

If you would like to arrange for an interview with Bob Funk, please contact Sherry Kast at (405) 717-5966.

About Robert A. “Bob” Funk
Robert A. “Bob” Funk is chairman, chief executive officer and president of Express Employment Professionals. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the international staffing company has more than 600 franchises in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Under his leadership, Express has put more than five million people to work worldwide. Funk served as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and was also the Chairman of the Conference of Chairmen of the Federal Reserve.

About Express Employment Professionals
Express Employment Professionals puts people to work. It generated more than $2.3 billion in temporary sales in 2012 and ranks as the largest privately held staffing agency in the United States. Its goal is to put more than a million people to work.

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Sherry Kast
since: 08/2008
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