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Share Of Americans Employed During Prime Working Years At Lowest Level In Decades

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On April 24, 2012, job seekers wait in line during a job fair, in Portland, Oregon. By one measure, the unemployment crisis has not abated at all.
On April 24, 2012, job seekers wait in line during a job fair, in Portland, Oregon. By one measure, the unemployment crisis has not abated at all.

More Americans are sitting out their prime working years.

Fewer Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 have jobs than at any point in the 23 years before the recession, according to government data cited by the Washington Post. Since these Americans are in their prime working years, the repercussions of them not participating in the economy could last for decades.

Just 75.7 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 have jobs: a full 5 percent less than before the recession, according to the Washington Post. This statistic has barely improved since the worst of the recession.

Other data points to a workforce that is working less. Though the unemployment rate has fallen in recent months, it can often be a misleading measure, because it only accounts for people actively looking for work that don't have jobs. Instead, other measures indicate that a growing number of potential workers have simply given up on looking for work.

The labor force participation rate now is at its lowest level in 30 years, according to the Labor Department. And many workers that are dropping out of the labor force still are at an age where they are capable of working, but they just can't find work, according to Bank of America.

In addition, the ratio of employed Americans to the overall population is lower than it was in April of 2010, according to Stephen Bronars, senior economist at Welch Consulting. This means that job growth is keeping pace with population growth, but not making up for lost ground from the recession, according to Bronars.

On the whole, the U.S. has 11.6 million fewer jobs than before the recession, according to labor economist Mark Price.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke also warned at a Senate committee hearing in February that the prolonged unemployment crisis has changed the job market for the worse. He said that since more than 40 percent of the unemployed have been without work for more than six months, it will become harder for those people to find jobs as time goes on.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous headline for this post incorrectly stated that the share of unemployed Americans in their prime working years was at its lowest in decades. It's employed Americans in their prime working years that is at its lowest level in decades.

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