Figure 4, scales labor force participation rates for prime-age men and prime-age women against their 2019 pre-pandemic levels. In the decade from late 2013 to late 2023, female workforce participation rates witnessed a roaring comeback: pushing well above the pre-pandemic ceiling from significantly depressed pre-Trump levels. For prime-age men, the snap-back might be described as tepid: barely recovering to 2019 levels. If we scale 2019 at 100, prime-age female LFPRs were five points higher at the end of 2023 than a decade earlier—while prime-male rates were up by barely a point. Work rates for prime-age men today—after an economic recovery, during an economic expansion, and in the midst of a labor shortage—are barely as high as they were at the bottom of the trough after the severe Reagan-era recession. Yes: that 1983 floor for prime male work rates in the wake of what had been the worst postwar downturn to date is now, forty years later, the new normal for “full or near-full employment” for American men.
Related: Men’s Falling Labor Force Participation Across Generations and Wage Inequality and the Rise in Labor Force Exit: The Case of US Prime-Age Men and Bringing Home the Bacon: Have Trends in Men’s Pay Weakened the Traditional Family?