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Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

It's puzzling that so many prime-working-age Americans have withdrawn from the workforce. And the government forecasts that the problem is going to get worse.

The big picture: From a peak in the dot-com years of 1997–2001, the workforce participation rate for those 25–54 has steadily fallen, but the participation rate in this group actually has gone up since September, as the sizzling economy pulls long-term unemployed people into the job market, says Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

Yes, but: In the coming years, the BLS expects the rate to go back down.

  • In 2022, the BLS forecasts, 81.1% of people aged 25–34 will be working or seeking work, down from 83.7% in 1992; the rate will drop to 81.8% among those 35–44, from 85.1%; and to 79.9% from 81.5% for those 45–54.
  • Overall for those 25–54, the rate drops to 81% from 83.6% in 1992.

Be smart: Among the reasons for dropping out of the workforce are drug use, a felony conviction and a lack of skills after a long bout of unemployment. But in a paper last year from the Kansas City Fed, economist Didem Tuzemen also blames "job polarization" — a decline in demand for low- and middle-skill jobs, thus forcing people in these age categories out of the workforce.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines.
  2. Health: Lessons for trapping the next pandemic.
  3. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  4. Politics: Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  5. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses — In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine its hardly using.
Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine it's hardly using

Macron, Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel (R) at a summit in October. Photo: Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty

Italy on Thursday blocked the export of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia, becoming the first EU country to exercise an export ban due to a vaccine shortfall in the bloc.

Why it matters: The controversial step exposes multiple major challenges to distributing vaccines — even among the world’s richest countries.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Global freedom continues steady decline: report

The global erosion of democracy has continued for a 15th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House.

Zoom in: The report calls particular attention to India, which slipped from “free” to “partly free” due to the government's “scapegoating of Muslims” and “crackdown on critics.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, according to the report, “driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”