The share of American adults who are either working or actively looking for work -- i.e.: the labor force participation rate -- fell to its lowest point since 1979, according to today's jobs report.
If 37 percent of American adults aren't in the labor force, what are they doing?
Bloomberg Businessweek has a beautiful graphical explanation. Click it.
The upshot is that the falling labor force is a bad thing, absolutely -- more workers means more stuff, more wealth, less government spending on the indigent, and so forth -- but it's also not something we can totally control. We can liberalize immigration to add more working people and resist budget cuts to keep deficit spending high while the private sector is recovering. But much of the decline in labor force participation is that one thing that not even the most ambitious policy wonk could ever imagine reversing. That thing is time. Older countries work less.