As discussed earlier, Jamie Dimon’s annual letter this year was a departure from his usual optimistic sermons about the state of nation, dedicating an entire section in the 45 page letter to describe that “something is wrong” with the US. And of all the items mentions, the following aspect of the US economy is what was most troubling to the JPM CEO. Not surprisingly, it deals with two of the biggest threats facing the US currently: demographics and labor, and shows the at least in one key economic metric, the US is now the worst among the entire universe of developed countries.
This is what Dimon said:
Labor force participation in the United States has gone from 66% to 63% between 2008 and today. Some of the reasons for this decline are understandable and aren’t too worrisome – for example, an aging population. But if you examine the data more closely and focus just on labor force participation for one key segment; i.e., men ages 25-54, you’ll see that we have a serious problem. The chart below shows that in America, the participation rate for that cohort has gone from 96% in 1968 to a little over 88% today. This is way below labor force participation in almost every other developed nation.
If the work participation rate for this group went back to just 93% – the current average for the other developed nations – approximately 10 million more people would be working in the United States. Some other highly disturbing facts include: Fifty-seven percent of these non-working males are on disability, and fully 71% of today’s youth (ages 17–24) are ineligible for the military due to a lack of proper education (basic reading or writing skills) or health issues (often obesity or diabetes).
Incidentally, Dimon’s key concern was initially flagged here back in 2013 and most recently, last summer. For the remainder of the US economic problems listed by Dimon, please refer to the original article.