What Economic Recovery? 95 Million Americans Out of the Labor Force

By Gloria Taylor

In the remaining weeks of his Presidency, Obama has been quick to tout his economic legacy. Yet the last job report of this administration highlights what we’ve seen the past eight years–lackluster economic growth. After the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, millions of Americans are pessimistic about the economy, which has still not seen meaningful growth and job creation.

While the unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of percentage point from 4.6% to 4.7%, a more comprehensive underemployment rate continues to stagnate at 9.2%, accounting for workers stuck in a part time job who otherwise would be full time. This is well above pre-recession levels, likely because half of the jobs created under Obama weren’t full time.

The standard unemployment rate has crawled down from recession level highs, but labor force participation has fallen 18% since Obama took office, amounting to an increase of 14,573,000 individuals not working or seeking work. A record 95 million Americans have now opted out of the labor force, an important factor in why a 4.6% unemployment rate does not tell the whole story.

The reality is too many Americans have either given up looking for work or are underemployed. We’ve survived from a recession, but still need meaningful job growth. It’s about time to get Americans back to work and restore confidence in the economy. And guess what, Congress can help with that.

On multiple fronts, Congress ought to tackle the forces restraining economic growth and job creation, mainly the tax code, government regulation and Obamacare. To start, the House already passed the REINS Act (H.R. 26) requiring Congressional approval of new major regulations, those annually costing $100 million or more. The House also expanded the scope of the Congressional Review Act by passing the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 21) to let Congress abolish multiple regulations at a time also takes concrete steps to rolling back the red tape severely limiting growth. The Senate needs to follow suit on both these bills.

Repealing major legislation like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank will shift thousands of hours away from regulatory compliance back to productivity and job creation. Congress also has the opportunity to work with the Trump administration on conservative tax reform that would spur on saving, investment, growth, and job creation by lowering rates, closing loopholes and eliminating cronyism. Congress has a lot of work to do to make economic growth a reality. It’s time to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

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