Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Time use of the non-employed

Source: New York Times
The decline in labor force participation means that a larger and larger fraction of the population, including many prime-age men, are not working and not actively looking for work.

What do they do all day? The New York Times has a lovely article answering that question.

I took a screenshot at left to advertise the post, but go to the Times where the graph is interactive.

Next question, where does the money come from?

Understanding the lives of people in this predicament seems to me a useful step to understanding the big decline in participation.

5 comments:

  1. Looks like men need to get off their butts and do some housework!

    Seriously though, this is great data but I think it would be important to compare these items to working individuals. Obviously a lot of leisure would get displaced, but I wager things like sleep getting displaced by housework for the full or more time employed would alter the layabout perception that seems strongly implied by this graphic.

    PS Since I note you favor real names, my name is John McCue. I have a four year degree in Computer Information Systems along with about five years experience (personal projects notwithstanding) in various information technologies, mostly database and web development. I'm not inclined to use a real name login above the fold, but figured I'd include some detail in case the recent memory may sway you to publish my comments.

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  2. HeWhoLivesInGlassHousesShouldntThrowStonesJanuary 8, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Replace watching TV with surfing the interent/blogging/or reading the news and I think it looks pretty close to the time use of a university economist.

    Understanding the lives of people in that predicament seems to me a useful step to understanding the big decline in the production of new economic ideas.

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  3. "Understanding the lives of people in this predicament seems to me a useful step to understanding the big decline in participation."

    Not really. Big part of the problem is long-term unemployment. When number of new jobs is 5-10 times lower than number of unemployed, 80-90% will remain unemployed even if they spend 24 hours a day searching for a new job. Some simply become too disillusioned and depressed and drop from the labor force. part of them will return when conditions improve significantly, but others won't be psychologically capable of doing so.
    Second problem is that now you are basically required by law to have children under constant supervision (I read several month ago an article about court cases against (mostly single) mothers who left their underage children (mostly 8-11 year-olds) to be by themselves for a few hours. And often, babysitting costs more than they can earn, so staying at home is economical solution, however much they wanted to work.
    Plenty of people have been forced to take disability pension. Most of those who took disability from 2008 used to work and probably liked to work, but were forced from jobs they could do into jobs where their disability is a problem (for example, someone with leg or back problems can do office work, but physical work or waiting tables would be too painful, if not totally impossible). Their return into workforce is questionable - however much they love to work, they may be afraid that if they return to work, they won't be able to get disability again if situation changes and they lose jobs they are capable of doing again.
    All in all, the above chart tells more about what the unemployed did to fill those 10-odd hours normally spent on work/commute, than provide any explanation why they are unemployed (that is correlation goes they are unemployed, that's why they are doing what they are doing, not the other way around). The only exception are caregivers, who have decided that it's cheaper to be unemployed than to pay someone .

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    Replies
    1. "Not really. Big part of the problem is long-term unemployment. When number of new jobs is 5-10 times lower than number of unemployed, 80-90% will remain unemployed even if they spend 24 hours a day searching for a new job."

      Wait, what? Here's from JOLTS:

      "There were 5.0 million job openings on the last business day of November, little changed from October."

      With 155 million in the labor force, at an unemployment rate of 5.6%, that's around 9 million. I'm sure these numbers are a little off, perhaps real unemployment is higher. Then again, maybe JOLTS forgets about self-employment and other means of making money. At the end of the day I don't see how you come up with something like 5-10 times more unemployed than jobs available.

      Not that I think this matters really. He's talking about the labor force participation rate, not unemployment per se. Sure, a portion is disillusioned workers, but that's not all. People do actively choose not to work, for reasons unrelated to available jobs.

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  4. Why do they go to sleep so early? That seems depressing.

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