Percentage of US population working / Women and men in the labor force. Julie Snider / USA TODAY / Bureau of Economic Analysis /  Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY
13 April 2011

The share of the population that is working fell to its lowest level last year since women started entering the workforce in large numbers three decades ago, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Only 45.4% of Americans had jobs in 2010, the lowest rate since 1983 and down from a peak of 49.3% in 2000. Last year, just 66.8% of men had jobs, the lowest on record.

The bad economy, an aging population and a plateau in women working are contributing to changes that pose serious challenges for financing the nation’s social programs.

“What’s wrong with the economy may be speeding up trends that are already happening,” says Marc Goldwein, policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan group favoring smaller deficits.

For example, job troubles appear to have slowed a trend of people working later in life, putting more pressure on Social Security, he says.

Another change: the bulk of those not working has shifted from children to adults.

In 2000, the nation had roughly the same number of children and non-working adults. Since then, the population of non-working adults has grown 27 million while the nation added just 3 million children under 18.

USA TODAY analyzed employment numbers and 2010 Census data to see how the ratio of workers to non-workers has changed. …

More Americans leaving the workforce

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