A lot of us is this corner of the blogosphere are retired, many supplementing our income with Social Security, or living mostly on Social Security. So why do we have to concern ourselves about jobs?
Because people with jobs are the ones who pay for Social Security. There is no lock box. There's no reservoir of money that the government can tap into to cover Social Security payments. It's a system. Workers put money into the system; retired people take money out. The more people working, the more solvent the system.
So when you look at this first graph, showing the number of Americans in the workforce, you should be concerned. A couple of years ago there were about 156 million people in the workforce. Now there are 153 million. A loss of some 3 million people who are willing and able to work.
The next graph shows people currently in the workforce who do not have a job -- and who are therefore not paying Social Security taxes. The number of unemployed has doubled since 2007, from about 7.5 million to 15 million. That's a lot of people not paying Social Security tax.
Then consider the third graph. It's a measure of total nonfarm payrolls in the U.S. In 2007 there were almost 140 million workers -- people actually paying into the Social Security system. Now there are fewer than 130 million.
Finally, look at the percentage of people who participate in the labor force. It's down from almost 67 percent to below 64 percent. That's not a good trend.
All these graphs tell the same story. Fewer people working; not as many people even looking for work. In the past four years, 10 million fewer people are paying into Social Security (or Medicare). About 3 million have given up on even the prospect of working. Over 7 million others want to work -- and would be happy to pay their Social Security tax -- but can't find a job.
So that's why retired people need jobs, too.
Not to mention the fact that it's a really terrible situation for the people who need an income, but can't find a job. The moms and dads with kids. Early retirees. Young people. Do you have any kids? Do you know any 20-somethings? I really feel bad for them, because it's nearly impossible for them to land a job. And the jobs they do get are often not challenging, not particularly interesting, and offer little opportunity for advancement.
Henry Snyder of Charleston, S.C., who has a master's degree in school counseling, was cited in an article by the AP (see below), attesting to this problem. Job availability in his area remains limited, he said, especially for young people. Many of his friends who are a few years out of college are still working the same low-paying jobs they took while students.
I wish there were a magic wand to create jobs in this country. President Obama has offered some proposals for investing in the country's infastructure, lighting a fire under a clean energy program, reinvigorating our science and technology programs. Let's hope he gets somewhere with them.
Finally, to end on a note of optimism, AP yesterday came out with an article called "Consumer Confidence at 3-Year High on Job Optimism." The optimism is measured, to be sure, but let's hope the optimism is justified.