When the April figures on unemployment were released May 4, they were more than disappointing. They were deeply disturbing.
While the unemployment rate had fallen from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent, 342,000 workers had stopped looking for work. They had just dropped out of the labor market.
Only 63.6 percent of the U.S. working age population is now in the labor force, the lowest level since December 1981.
During the Reagan, Bush I and Clinton years, participation in the labor force rose steadily to a record 67 percent. The plunge since has been almost uninterrupted.
Here is a major cause of the economic malaise of the 21st century, a condition over which a president has little control.