The Work Week, Episode 2: What Happened To U.S. Workers? : The Indicator from Planet Money The share of people aged 25 to 54 in the labor force has fallen in the past couple of decades. What happened?

The Work Week, Episode 2: What Happened To U.S. Workers?

The Work Week, Episode 2: What Happened To U.S. Workers?

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Constanza Gallardo/NPR
Ft panel
Constanza Gallardo/NPR

This episode is a part of our week-long series, The Work Week, where we're rerunning some of our favorite stories about the labor market. This story originally ran in April of 2019, and you can find the audio and transcript of the full panel here.

The U.S. economy is booming. We've seen sustained low unemployment rates, wages climbing, and thousands of new jobs being added to the economy every month. The headline numbers focusing on the labor market seem great, and they are.

And yet, some deep problems remain unsolved. For example, take the prime-age labor force participation rate - or the share of people in the workforce aged 25 to 54, whom you'd expect to be working rather than in school or retired. In the U.S., that share is lower than it was in the 1990s. Why do so many workers remain outside the labor force? What economic forces have led to their exclusion from the rising prosperity of the U.S. economy?

This episode is an excerpt from a panel discussion at a live event in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Financial Times' Alphachat podcast.

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