Ben Casselman at 538, on unemployment and underemployment, starting from this point.
The U.S. labor force is the smallest it’s been since the 1970s as a share of the adult population: 62.8 percent today, down from 66 percent in December 2007, when the recession began. If the labor force participation rate had remained unchanged over that time, nearly 8 million more Americans would be in the workforce today. The government defines the “labor force” as everyone over the age of 15 who’s either working (i.e. employed) or actively looking for work (i.e. unemployed).
There are, Casselman explains:
… two extremes: In one, the weak economy is responsible for the entire decline, while in the other it can be attributed to longer-term demographic forces.
From there, his analysis leads to some seriously unpleasant conclusions and makes reading the whole thing both worthwhile and troubling.