Category Archives: Secular stagnation

17/4/21: Collapsing Labor Force Participation: A Secular Trend


For those of you following this blog this would be a familiar sight: I have been worrying about the underlying structure of the U.S. labor markets for some time now. The ongoing recovery appears to be relatively robust in terms of headline figures, e.g. GDP growth rates and declining continued unemployment claims. But in reality, it has been nothing but the return to trends that persisted before the pandemic - trends that are extremely worrying.

I covered the fact that longer term unemployment has now gone through the roof: And beyond this, there is a bigger problem of historically low levels of labor force participation. We are witnessing a massive pull-away within the skills distribution in the U.S. economy: there are shortages of skilled labor, including in manufacturing, and there is massive outflow of people from the labor markets in lower skills groups.

Just look at the absolute disaster of the 'recovery' when it comes to people who have left the workforce alltogether:

And consider the gender mix in this: 

1. Women labor force participation is down:

2. Men participation has collapsed:

The above appears to show more benign trend in female labor force participation trend than in male, and... here comes the kicker: women labor force participation currently sits around the levels comparable to 1987; men - at around ... well... never.

The above table puts matters into perspective: the gap between the pandemic period and prior high participation period is almost 5 times larger for men than for women. But... the gap between women and men participation rates in the pandemic period and pre-pandemic period is much smaller: at roughly 48% higher for men than for women. For the latest data point (March 2021) the latter gap is roughly 80%. In other words, the dynamics in terms of labor force participation for women are becoming much less benign, relative to men. than they were during the pre-pandemic period.

To put this into a different perspective: secular pre-pandemic trend for men were woeful. They were less so for women. But pandemic is accelerating longer term pressures on both men and women in pushing them out of the labor force.

If you think this is a 'robust' recovery, you really need to think a bit harder: we are having a secular stagnation in the female labor force and we are having a long term depression in the male labor force. And these trends are not subject to demographics of aging. 

13/11/20: The economy has two chronic illnesses (and neither are Covid)

My column for The Currency this week covers two key long-term themes in the global economy that pre-date the pandemic and will remain in place well into 2025: the twin secular stagnations hypotheses and the changing nature of the productivity. The link to the article is here;


2/11/2020: Technological Deepening and De-globalization post-COVID

Interesting insights from McKinsey on changes in technology adoption in response to COVID19 pandemic:

In the ed, I marked two types of technological frontier shifts: the ones relating to displacement of status quo-ante in supply chains - re-orientation from China; and the ones relating to technological deepening. Both are the legacy of the U.S. political and economic shift toward de-globalization. 

28/1/20: The Precariat of America’s Workampers

Precariat is defined as "a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat." [Source]

Here is a very interesting article chronicling journalist's experience with the "Workampers", or a large number of Americans living in the world of campers, RVs and seasonal jobs: Many are undoubtedly victims to the age discrimination that adversely impacts Americans after the age of 50, despite the pro forma legal bans against discrimination on the grounds of age.