To explore the answer, we'll visit the Department of Labor's website, which houses several useful databases. Among the most important measures the agency tracks is Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR). This is the percentage of the working-age population that are either employed or unemployed but seeking a job. The remainder are either not looking for employment, are discouraged workers, or otherwise completely out of the workforce.
Looking over the last 30 years, this is the worst environment for employment since Jimmy Carter's recession. President Ronald Reagan attacked the malaise by slashing tax rates, reducing regulation and -- basically -- getting government out of the way of the private sector. In addition, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 had a markedly positive effect on the LFPR.
After the dot-com bubble collapsed and the after-effects of the 9/11 attacks rippled through the economy, the LFPR stayed stable for years. From the summer of 2003 until the Fannie Mae housing meltdown of late 2008, the rate hovered around 66%.
Even after the housing meltdown, the LFPR stayed basically the same until the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Why?
Basically, President Obama and his Democrat super-majorities in the 111th Congress incentivized sloth, fraud and unemployment. Why are many Americans out of the workforce?
Consider the major milestones in the Democrats' job-destroying policies:
03-01-2009: SNAP (Food Stamp) Participation Rates Leap
11-06-2009: Unemployment Extension Adds Up to 99 Weeks of Benefits
03-23-2010: Obama Signs Health Care Bill Today as GOP Challenges Constitutionality
04-02-2010: Census hiring expected to reach peak in next several months
05-27-2010: Obama Extends Moratorium; Agency Chief Resigns
09-16-2010: New PPACA [Obamacare] Provisions Take Effect in September – But Do Your Clients Know?
02-03-2011: U.S. in Contempt Over Gulf Drill Ban, Judge Rules
06-11-2011: Utility threat to shutter coal plants fuels EPA battle
07-08-2011: Report: Obama’s oil company tax proposal would jeopardize thousands of jobs
They have yet to figure out that if you reward sloth, you get more sloth. And the worst is yet to come.
Remember in 2012.