Apropos of: In Which I Make Myself Very Confused About Cyclical Recovery: Monday Focus for August 18, 2014, Larry Summers emails: plot male and female prime-aged employment rates separately, and be afraid:

Graph Employment Rate Aged 25 54 Females for the United States© FRED St Louis Fed Graph Employment Rate Aged 25 54 Males for the United States© FRED St Louis Fed

Females 25-54: A 3.0%-point decline from 72.5% in December 2007 to 69.5% in October 2008, and then near-flatline: 69.9% today. 1/9 of the decline from peak to trough recovered. Current 2.6%-point shortfall vis-a-vis December 2007.

Males 25-54: A 6.7%-point from 87.3% in December 2007 to 80.6% in October 2009, and then a 2.8%-point recovery to 83.4%. 2/5 of the decline from peak to trough recovered. Current 3.8%-point shortfall vis-a-vis December 2007.

As I said, none of these shortfalls are directly attributable to aging–and only very small amounts to increased at-home care of elderly relatives and increased education. And just what are these “non aging-related cohort effects” supposed to be, anyway? The collapse of real estate values and thus of potential retirement savings should have led to more desired labor force participation, not less:

Graph Employment Rate Aged 25 54 Females for the United States© FRED St Louis Fed Graph Employment Rate Aged 25 54 Females for the United States© FRED St Louis Fed

I defy you to get any non-aging related cohort effect trend for females, and to get one for males greater than 1%-point/decade. That would, without hysteresis, give us half of the work of recovery done for males, 1/9 done for females, 1/3 overall.

Yes. I am afraid. I am very afraid…