More workers joined the federal government’s disability program in June than got new jobs, according to two new government reports, a clear indicator of how bleak the nation’s jobs picture is after three full years of economic recovery.
The economy created just 80,000 jobs in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. But that same month, 85,000 workers left the workforce entirely to enroll in the Social Security Disability Insurance program, according to the Social Security Administration.
The disability ranks have outpaced job growth throughout President Obama’s economic recovery. While the economy has created 2.6 million jobs since June 2009, fully 3.1 million workers signed up for disability benefits.
In other words, the number of new disability enrollees has climbed 19% faster than the number of new jobs created during the sluggish recovery.
And the disability ranks will continue to swell. In just the last month, almost 275,000 put in applications for disability benefits. Experts say that more people try to get on disability when jobs are scarce, and changes to eligibility rules enacted back in 1984 have made it far easier to qualify.
In addition, while job growth has been very weak during the recovery, the total number of people who’ve dropped out of the labor force entirely has exploded, climbing 7.3 million since June 2009, and IBD analysis of BLS data show. Some of them aged into retirement, but most either signed up for disability, stayed in school, moved back in with parents, or just quit looking for a job.
As a result, the “labor force participation rate” — the number of people who have jobs or actively looking for one compared with the entire working-age population — is now 63.8%, down from 65.7% in June 2009. This participation rate is lower than it’s been in 30 years. In previous recoveries, the labor participation rate has almost always risen, not fallen.
Other indicators from the BLS report showing that the three-year-old economic recovery isn’t producing jobs in adequate numbers:
The unemployment level has been above 8% for 41 consecutive months. To put that in perspective, in the previous 60 years, the unemployment rate topped 8% in a total of only 39 months.
The number of people with jobs is still nearly 5 million below its pre-recession peak.
The number of long-term unemployed — those out of work 27 weeks or more — is still 5.4 million — almost one million higher than when the recovery began three years ago, and almost twice the level it ever reached prior to Obama’s recovery.