Economic progress is just an illusion

Some young Americans unable to find jobs after they graduate from college simply stay on campus, working toward advanced degrees. Many older men and women who cannot find work choose to take “early retirement” and reduced Social Security benefits.

Many people in the prime of life spend months, even years, looking for jobs – then simply drop out. They stop searching.

Even as many in the federal government tout recovery from the long recession, they have been juggling statistics to paint a picture brighter than reality.

During the past two months, the official unemployment rate has been 6.3 percent. But that does not count people in the labor force who have stopped looking for work – or, perhaps, have been simply put in that category by the federal government.

Last month, federal officials moved more than 988,000 people from the statistical classification of those seeking jobs to another one – “not participating in labor force.”

About 101 million Americans are of working age. Nearly 40 percent of them are not employed. That is the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970s, according to published reports.

The statistics have a variety of ramifications. Among the most important is that about six in 10 working-age Americans are, one way or another, having to support those who have dropped out of the labor force.

Clearly, that is unsustainable, especially in view of the $17 trillion national debt.

In other words, much so-called progress in economic recovery is an illusion. We have to do better.