Don’t Blame the Baby Boomers: the only age group which ↑ LFPR & E-PR in the last 8 years!

In various commenting environments, I’ve had people link this article as an explanation for falling Labor Force Participation Rates. The linked article largely blames “surging ranks of older baby-boomers..it’s likely to keep declining for at least the next 10 years, as the baby-boomers continue to age out of the workforce.”

That explanation is bogus, and I’ll prove it with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Democrats held 2+ out of 3 of the House, Senate, and Presidency from 1/3/2007 to 1/3/2015. So let’s compare numbers from December 2006 to December 2014.

In those 8 years, the overall Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) dropped 3.7 points, from 66.4 to 62.7, a decrease of 5.6%.

If you and the article you link are to be trusted, then a significant part of that decrease is due to baby boomers leaving the workforce. But what does the BLS data actually show?

Compare Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) Dec-06 Dec-14 Point Change % Change
ALL (16 yrs. & over) http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000 66.4 62.7 -3.7 -5.6%
16-17 yrs. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300086 32.4 23.2 -9.2 -28.4%
18-19 yrs. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300088 56.9 47.4 -9.5 -16.7%
20-24 yrs. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300036 75.6 70.5 -5.1 -6.7%
25-54 yrs http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300060 83.1 81.1 -2.0 -2.4%
55 yrs. & over http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11324230 38.5 39.9 1.4 3.6%

Summary:

%∆ in LFPR 12/2006 to 12/2014:
Overall ↓5.6%
16-17 yrs. ↓28.4%
18-19 yrs. ↓16.7%
20-24 yrs. ↓6.7%
25-54 yrs. ↓2.4%
55+ yrs. ↑3.6%

As the overall LFPR decreased, the ONLY group which had an INCREASE was the 55 years & over age group. ALL of the other age groups declined, and the younger the group, the bigger the decline.

So blaming the baby boomers is Taurus Fimus!

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Update: In a comment on another blog, a commenter challenged me saying;

The only way to correctly measure what the link wants to measure is to count the population size for each group. Then measure how many are working.

That article you linked to clearly DOES NOT DO THAT.

OK, let’s do a similar comparison using the Employment-Population Ratio for the population at large vs. specific age groups:

Compare Employment-Population Ratio (E-PR) Dec-06 Dec-14 Point Change % Change
ALL (16 yrs. & over) http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300000 63.4 59.2 -4.2 -6.6%
16-17 yrs. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300086 27.1 18.9 -8.2 -30.3%
18-19 yrs. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300088 49.3 40.1 -9.2 -18.7%
20-24 yrs. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300036 69.7 62.9 -6.8 -9.8%
25-54 yrs http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12300060 80.1 77.0 -3.1 -3.9%
55 yrs. & over http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS12324230 37.4 38.3 0.9 2.4%

The result is the same.  The ONLY age group which ended Harry Reid’s 8 year Majority Leader run at a higher % employed was the group 55 Years & over.

%∆ in E-PR 12/2006 to 12/2014:
Overall ↓6.6%
16-17 yrs. ↓30.3%
18-19 yrs. ↓18.7%
20-24 yrs. ↓9.8%
25-54 yrs. ↓3.9%
55+ yrs. ↑2.4%

As the overall E-PR decreased, the ONLY group which had an INCREASE was the 55 years & over age group. ALL of the other age groups declined, and the younger the group, the bigger the decline.

So blaming the baby boomers is Taurus Fimus!

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Update 2:

Those born between 1946 and 1964 will turn 51 to 69 in 2015. There can be no doubt that these Baby Boomers will eventually all leave the workforce due to retirement or death. My point is not that Baby Boomers leaving the workforce will never have a negative impact on LFPR or E-PR. My point is that the declines we have seen in LFPR and E-PR from December 2006 to present are not due to declines in LFPR and E-PR for the 55+ age group, which was the ONLY age group which saw an INCREASE in both LFPR and E-PR from December 2006 to present.

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