Even When US Employment Recovers, It Will Still Be Weak

Over at Equitablog, Nick Bunker runs down the change over time of three different measures of the employment-to-population ratio. As he shows, whether you use prime-age EPOP (percent of people between the ages of 25 and 54 who are employed), civilian EPOP (percent of people aged 15+ who are employed), or ZPOP (too complicated to explain here), you find that our employment levels have not recovered to pre-recession levels.

In addition to Bunker's point, it's worth noting how lackluster US employment is relative to the rest of the world, just in general. Here is the overall prime-age EPOP in 2014 in the US and selected OECD countries:

The US sits near the bottom in employment rates, ahead of only four members of the PIIGS (the "P" of Portugal scores above the US).

One possible explanation for this is that it's just a woman thing. The US social welfare system notably provides almost no support for women with children, and this makes it difficult for many women to work.

Indeed, with women as well as overall, the US sits only above the IIGS of the PIIGS.

But it's not just women dragging things down. US men also don't do too well.

With men, the US manages to move ahead of some non-PIIGS countries, which is nice. But it's still way down the list.

I am not sure what all accounts for why the US does so poorly in employment. A lack of child care and paid leave hurts women's employment a lot. A lack of an unemployment system that includes public employment services and active labor market policies that guide people to new jobs probably chips into the problem as well. Hiring discrimination against people of color and other minorities also probably has something do with it.