WASHINGTON: On this Labor Day the state of Michigan sits at its lowest unemployment rate since the year 2000, but that number is slightly deceptive. It’s because less people are looking for jobs. That’s according to the Michigan League for Public Policy, which also says the Michigan work force is getting older and older with fewer young people joining in. “16 to 24-year-olds are not entering the work force the way they used to,” says Peter Ruark of the Michigan League for Public Policy.
In fact, the number of workers in that age group has dropped about 2.5% since 2000. Meanwhile the number of workers 55 and older has nearly doubled since 2000. It’s not a problem that those workers aren’t retiring, but that they’re taking the lower paying, more entry level jobs that typically young people would start in. “A lot of the jobs that people are working just aren’t as good jobs as they used to be,” explains Ruark. “The auto manufacturing jobs have left. Younger people in many parts of the state used to enter the auto industry at 18, 19-years-old, and they had income security. Now they’re faced with choices among very low waged jobs that don’t get you anywhere and that could be the reason they’re not joining the work force the way they used to be.”
The issue will really show up when the older workers start to retire, according to Ruark: “Our society needs to be prepared for the fact that as the baby boomers retire there will be fewer younger workers to replace them.” It’s because less people are looking for jobs. Since 2000 the Michigan economy has had a net loss of 326,000 workers, which will be tough for the state to handle in years to come: “It means there’s less wealth being generated, it means there are fewer workers to fill jobs, it also means maybe there will be more people that are going to need assistance at some point,” says Ruark.