Even as unemployment has been falling, the size of the nation’s workforce continues to fall as well. Since the start of the recession, the percentage of the population that has a job or is looking for one has dropped more than 3 percentage points, to 62.6 percent - the lowest we've seen since the 1970s.
Surprisingly enough, workforce participation has been declining the most among men between the ages of 25 and 54, traditionally considered the prime working years. The high mark for this cohort was 98 percent labor participation in 1954, but it currently stands at 88 percent. The United States now has the third-lowest participation rate for “prime-age men” among the world’s developed countries.
The biggest issue seems to be the decline in blue-collar jobs. More than 90 percent of college-educated men are in the workforce, compared with just 83 percent of those with a high school diploma or less.