Wasting our seed corn

Last post I spoke of how the employment of “kids” – the 16-19 year olds – had dropped so precipitously, and further how it’s stayed low. Yet the jobs are still there, so where are they going? Today, I’m answering.

They’re going to the 55+. In particular they’re going to the women aged 55-64.

In 2000, women ages 55-64 had about 50% of the population in the labor force. It’s been climbing steadily, and today approximately 58% of women aged 55-64 are in the labor force.

Men the same age stayed about the same level of employment from 2000 to 2004, and since then have climbed from about 66% to about 68% employed.

( All the above comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed employment data – http://www.bls.gov. It’s not easily extracted and is java-driven so can’t have a clean link. darnit.)

Tickling the edges of the same site’s wage data, the implication is that these are the people taking the low-level Joe jobs – the ones that historically the 16-19 year olds took. The younger people in these jobs are using them for two purposes – springboards, and proof that they know how to work. (Actually, it also is the first time they have to lock into work habits – the daily grind that we experience for about four decades of our lives. )

So they don’t develop habits. And they don’t start a monetary cushion – earning wages – and continue to be a drag on the incomes of parents. Which in turn cuts how much the parents have available for themselves and their futures, pushing the vicious circle as they need to keep working longer before they can retire.

I still haven’t figured out why 2000 was so catastrophic in this area, but I have a better picture of what happened. And a much stronger suspicion that we’ll see ripple effects for another decade.

Our seed corn didn’t get into the ground in time. It’ll take longer till it’s contributing to the harvest. Which means what SHOULD BE profitable excess is instead sustenance.

It’s going to be interesting, but it’s not going to be fun.

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