Coats, JEC Investigate Dwindling Worker Participation

WASHINGTON, DC — Joint Economic Committee Chairman Dan Coats (R-Ind.) today chaired a committee hearing that examined dwindling worker participation in the United States.

“Many believe that America has entered a ‘new normal’ characterized by lower economic growth and workforce participation,” said Coats. “I believe it is perhaps too soon to claim that these trends are a permanent feature of the American economy. It is critical to examine the role federal policies have played in the decline of workforce participation among prime age workers since the recession.”

Coats’ opening statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“The committee will come to order.

“I would like to welcome our witnesses and thank them for being here today to discuss the decline in the labor force participation rate, the underlying reasons for it and what it means for American workers.

“We have seen a steady decline of the labor force participation rate since the early 2000s. June’s employment numbers revealed another drop in labor force participation to 62.6 percent, a record low for the post-recession period, and the lowest we have seen since the late 1970s.

“Today’s hearing will explore the questions of why the proportion of Americans looking for work or working has fallen; what does this mean for Americans and their well-being; and how much of this is due to the economy, to demographics, to social and cultural trends, and to policies that reduce the reward of working.

“The discussion will center on the notable decline in workforce participation, including how the long-term and short-term trends factor into the issue; who is working less; where workforce trends are expected to go from here; and what that means for Americans’ well-being and future growth.

“The combination of longer and shorter term trends in the midst of an uncharacteristically slow recovery has made it difficult to determine the expectations for future economic growth and workforce participation.

“That is why we are spending time today asking these questions in hopes of shedding light on this topic.

“While many believe that America has entered a ‘new normal’ characterized by lower economic growth and workforce participation, and subsequently require policies that lessen the negative consequences, it is perhaps too soon to claim that these trends are a permanent feature of the American economy.”

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