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September 19, 2007

« Go Louisville | Main | Creative Food »


According to a Census survey from 2004, with a population of 227 million over the age of 15 in the U.S., almost 79 million of those people (35%) did not work for the prior 4-months.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census just released it's report Reasons People Do Not Work: 2004.

From the report:

At even the busiest times, a large number of working-age people in the United States do not have or want jobs. Whatever the state of the economy, many people, even those who want to work, have been outside the workforce for long periods of time. Whether their joblessness is brief or extended, nonworkers constitute a large and important pool of human resources. Much research has been devoted to studying the characteristics and behavior of workers. Less is known about nonworkers. This is the second report that uses data from the nationwide Survey of Income and Program Participation SIPP) to fill some of the gaps in this knowledge. It examines several key characteristics of nonworkers, the main reasons they do not work, and some of the connections between their characteristics and their reasons for not working.

Retirement (38 percent) and school attendance (19 percent) were the most commonly reported reasons. Chronic illness or disability was the main reason for almost 1 in 7 nonworkers (15 percent). Taking care of children or others accounted for 13 percent. Around 6 percent cited an economic reason for not working––about 2 percent were on layoff, and 4 percent were unable to find work. Approximately 2 percent reported a temporary injury or illness as the main cause for being out of  work. The remaining 7 percent either were not interested in working or reported an “other” reason.

It's clear that the number of people actively looking for work is related to current economic conditions.  When times are difficult, many people give up and just stop looking for work and are then no longer counted as "unemployed".  Understanding everyone who is not currently in the workforce is a more meaningful undertaking.

The importance of understanding that every single person has creative potential and that ways to tap all that potential will be the true source of competitive advantage is reinforced by this study.  As my colleague in Sweden, Charlotta Mellander, points out, the real challenge is making jobs and occupations rewarding enough (and not just with money) so that people choose working over not working.

posted by Kevin Stolarick


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Michael Wells

There are several other components of non-workers. The flood of hard-to-employ ex-cons driven by drug laws and mandatory sentencing and now being released. The future cons whose work is criminal and not reported. But I'll bet a larger number is people in the underground cash economy. A former neighbor of my mothers was a very hard working handyman who found work by word of mouth and I doubt reported any of his cash only income. Ask around how many people pay their maids, nannys, lawn services, handyman, etc. in cash.


I find the premise that 100% of those people who are over the age of 15 should even be considered to be available for work utterly bizarre.


I wrote a short piece after seeing a lecture by Tom Brokaw for his book "Boom".

His book did not address, and I am curious about, how the 50s and 60s laid the groundwork for an unspoken epidemic of white collar layoffs the Boomers are now suffering through.

The Wall Street Journal had a series of stories on the then epidemic of white collar layoffs, starting with the Kodak layoffs in the early 90s. They committed early on to print a story a week until someone stood up to do something, but after about 3 months, you just didn’t read about it anymore. It became the norm. The Dot Com Bubble made an art of such bolemic practices, bringing people in and letting them go, looking at this sort of hefty decision making as a growth opportunity for its management.

See the link below for news articles on the downsizing of America:

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