Currently there are 155 million in the civilian workforce. About 11.3 million or 7.2% are unemployed and 144 million have jobs, many without security.
In the last five years, the employment–population ratio has gone from 61.9% in September, 2008 to 58.6% in September, 2013. That’s a dismal record of job loses, and a likely omen for more bad news to come.
A big chunk of American jobs depends on Goods Production, Distribution and Transportation industries which represent 21% or roughly 30 million jobs. Inextricably linked to these economic sectors are Management and Financial Services. They account for an additional 16% or 23 million jobs.
So, here’s the problem: In an economy that’s growing by only 2.5%, Goods Production, Distribution and Transportation jobs have declined by roughly (10%) over the last five years. If that trend continues, 53 million jobs risk cuts, maybe big ones.
Consequently, the question is: Has America’s capacity for supplying enough jobs for a growing population been exhausted?
Historically, that’s not the first time that question was asked.
In the middle of the “Great Depression,” and beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s second term in office, people were assured prosperity was “just around the corner.” That promise was crushed in 1938 by another economic cave in. The stock market collapsed, corporate profits plunged along with industrial production, welfare roles ballooned, and two million workers got layoff notices which pushed unemployment to almost 20% of the labor force.
Furthermore, GDP declined (6.3%) and disposable income per capita (8.7%). Critics called it a Roosevelt Recession and a “depression within a depression.”
The crash and demise of economic recovery brought on a lot of finger pointing. The “usual suspects” were: Anti-business policies, budget deficits, taxes, high labor costs, dried-up business investment, bad monetary policies, deflation, and conspiracies against the White House.
The rabble of contradictory policy suggestions that ensued from the economic crisis overwhelmed the FDR administration. Consequently, Franklin tried a strategy of doing a little bit of everything to help satisfy everyone, but it helped no one. Some say it made matters worse.
Finally, the economic bail out from the 1930s recession, according to many economists, came with the advent of World War II. That event unleashed a massive deficit spending program amounting to an estimated $288 billion. In addition, 10 million men were drafted into military service, which wiped-out America’s high unemployment.
Plainly, no one is suggesting a war to rectify today’s bad economy. However, there is evidence that economic ills can be overcome by non restrictive government policies that impel, inspire, excite, spur and trigger America’s inherent economic capabilities. That sort of action requires leadership in a valiant, uphill charge to promote free market capitalism.
But, notwithstanding America’s inherent economic strengths, it’s unlikely there will be enough jobs in America’s future beyond an employment-population ratio that’s barely above 50%. That is, unless there’s massive, unified government action to pass legislation and regulations that unshackles America’s quasi-dormant production capabilities and natural resources. Those strategic objectives achieve economic growth and rising employment, not just restoration.
Thanks for reading
 BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) data, seasonally adjusted. Both data sets include agriculture. Any discrepancies in calculations due to rounding
 BLS data, ratio under FDR in 1938 was 56%, Historical Statistics of U.S., USDC
 A more detail discussion in D.M. Kennedy book, Freedom from Fear, Oxford University Press, 1999
 In 1944 the unemployment rate dropped to 1.2%. At end of WWII 50 million men (18 to 45 yrs) registered for the draft. The drain on skilled workers due to the draft also caused labor shortages at home. Source: The Nat’l WWII Museum