Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shrinking Labor Pool Is A Cause For Concern!

The Labor Pool Is Growing Less Popular
Why is the labor pool shrinking at the same time the population continues to grow? Cultural change is sweeping across America and it appears less people really want to work. You can blame it on a lack of compelling opportunities  or a variety of different reasons, but this may be a signal the chickens are coming home to roost and the cost could be massive. As people leave the work force even for a short time many of them find it hard to get excited about the idea of reentering. The arena known as the work place is to many workers a time consuming and unpleasant mix of unfulfilling  task. A Shrinking Labor Pool represents a dramatic shift in our values with huge and possibly ugly implications for society at large.

Over the last two decades we have created an environment where the shame of not working has been greatly diminished. Two comments that I have heard on more than one occasion from people who did not work both startled and stuck with me. The first is "I'm just to busy to work" this seems to be a way to justify their lifestyle. This could be taken to imply those working have far less important things to occupy their time. The second is the terminology often used by those living on money doled out by the government is in reference as to when they will receive their "benefits." It seems "I get paid" followed by when the transfer will be made is the most common way. Oddly, this could be interpreted as to mean that they work or did something to earn the money.

I have also found those who are bone idle often feel little remorse and sometimes even a bit of pride in their ability to sidestep the obligations related to working. Reporting to a job tends not to be as much fun for the average worker as we might think, that is why they call it work and not a 'holiday'.  In fact many people hate and despise their job. For many people what they see as the death of the 'American dream' has added to their malaise. As they lose hope of ever really getting ahead or amounting to much they often find it is easier to accept their fate then to fight it. Why toil exerting a great effort in a society where an almost cavalier "Tom Sawyer" type attitude has developed and people swell with pride in tricking someone into painting their fence or carrying their share of the load? We would be wise to remember this will have a cost, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

As people exit the work force it is not uncommon for them to quickly use up what little or any savings they might have. This leaves them in a position to become a burden to society when even a slight financial misfortune is placed upon them. Those living on the edge of society live with only a small buffer and can find themselves stepping over the line. As they become more marginal people find a dramatic increase in the incentive to become involved in criminal activity or start down the path of running  up debts they can never repay and eventual bankruptcy. Activities such as these pose a cost and burden that tends to wear society down by attrition. This will further strain Social Security, SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, and a plethora of other programs that comprise a safety net under the nations poor. As wealth is transferred from those employed to those who are not we find that taxes must be increased on a proportionally smaller tax base.

The erosion of both skills and the work ethic has indeed left employers scrambling to man their ships. This helps explain a large number of job openings in certain sectors of the economy, but you cannot put a square peg into a round hole. Simply providing expensive job training to those with little desire to work and have no work ethic is not an answer and does not spur employers to pay someone more to do a poor job. The bottom-line is small business in particular is harmed and societies options slowly vanish as the labor pool evaporates. This trend has the potential to spur inflation because with as competence and skills vanish it will soon becomes outrageously expensive to have any service preformed that cannot be done by a large concern using a cookie cutter format.

To many people a life devoid of work has many benefits. They have more time to smell the roses and hang with family and friends as well as pursuing other interests even if it means they just while away the hours.  Modern society does not lack for providing distractions and diversions on a 24-7 time table. When you couple this with a almost generous array of income options from a government and society driven to reduce poverty finding a way to financially muddle along is not overly challenging. Many people, particularly the Millennials, have discovered how surprisingly little they really need to get by or even enjoy life when their basic needs are provided and even seem to take pride in this new found status.

  Footnote;  I applaud the shift away from a lifestyle based on materialism, but that should not be confused with the need of an individual to take personal responsibility and shoulder their part of life's burdens. Below are two other articles related to the subject of our so called "social safety-net." Thanks for reading and comments are encouraged.


  1. Interesting article, you might not like my reply on

  2. Regarding transfer of wealth, consider this. Total net worth of US households: 77 trillion dollars or $243,000 for each American. (316 million)
    Total household income 2012, 1trillion 340 billion 400 million dollars or $43,243 for each one.
    The bottom 80% have 20% of the wealth!

    1. Jim, it is not a big surprise that people disagree on this issue, but to clarify it is a very small fraction of the 1% that skew these numbers. This leaves those in the middle working hard and paying much of the bill for current policy. As a result each day more and more Americans say enough is enough, and that my friend is why the labor pool is shrinking.

    2. An anesthesiologist customer of mine pointed out that while he lives in Downtown Chicago in a nice home, his life is not really materially different from those of his employees. He has to show up every day to work, he has demands on his time and wealth, and overall he lives the same life as they do.

      He characterized himself as "the working wealthy." I think this is an accurate observation. The people who are skewing the wealth disparity stats are not the 1%, they are the 0.1% or even the 0.01%. There is a vast gulf between someone who "makes" $250,000 or even $500,000 working 50 weeks a year and someone who is already worth $100,000,000 or more and who makes a $1,000,000 per year in rents alone.

      This is not to say, "Let's rob the latter via taxes." I'm sick of the "he has more than I do, let's pay some men (or vote for them) with guns to go rob him because I want him to pay for the stuff I get."

      My point is that the vast increase in "wealth" of the 0.01% all rests on market perception. What the market gave, the market can take away. I think the next 5-10 years will take most of that illusory wealth away from the richest people. That won't make the rest of us any better off, but it will stop all this silly focus on wealth disparity.

  3. Why work? It ain't like the massive numbers of public sector employees actually work, yet if you are in the private sector all you are doing is financing them. I am done carrying all these public sector pension hounds and plan on making sure I contribute the barest minimum I can to their cushy retirement. I wasn't born to one of the "protected classes" to have education and government positions created just for me either. The only way we are ever going to get free of this yoke is by starving the masters. I got myself out of debt, produce what I can on my own, and take the barest minimum job I can get away with to stop feeding this beast.

  4. "Disability" benefits are at record levels. Public/govt pensions are eating up all the taxes we pay. Let's just call it what it is......gaming the system at every level of society is practiced daily and is out of control!
    Living off "other people's money" is the objective of this new cultural doubt about it!
    My theory is this: After all the banks and elites were bailed out by the govt in the "great recession"......a large number of people/workers/unions thought to themselves......"If the banksters and elites can get away with this can I".
    The "bailouts" was the "role model" for this massive cultural shift in attitudes toward work.