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1 - the workforce



More women have turned to the labor force for income since welfare reform policies established time limits on public assistance. Welfare caseloads have dropped by a record 6.5 million people since 1993, falling by half or more in 29 states and nearly half (46 percent) nationwide. The rolls have declined by 4.6 million people, or 38 percent, just since President Clinton signed the welfare reform law in August 1996. The percentage of welfare recipients working has tripled since 1992, and all states met the first overall work participation rates required under the welfare reform law. Companies in the Welfare-to-Work Partnership have hired over 410,000 welfare recipients, and the federal government has hired nearly 12,000, exceeding its goal of 10,000 set two years earlier.22

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Box 1.1: Moving people from welfare to work


text versionChapter 1 Box 1-2: Did you know that workers with disabilities . . .

An additional challenge is raising the labor market activity of people with disabilities. Given their lower educational attainment rates, among other factors, persons with significant disabilities report lower rates of labor market activity. Among labor market participants, persons with disabilities--moderate or significant--were more likely than those with no disabilities to report that they were looking for work or were on layoff rather than working. Persons with moderate disabilities were nearly twice as likely to be looking for work or on layoff as people with no disabilities, and those with severe disabilities were nearly three times as likely. Of persons 20 to 64 years old with severe disabilities, approximately 30 percent either worked, looked for a job, or were on layoff during the last four months of 1994--a stark contrast to the rates of 82 percent and 85 percent respectively for those with moderate or no disabilities. Education made some difference. Nevertheless, among workers with college degrees, only 52 percent of those with severe disabilities reported labor market activity compared to 90 percent of those with no disability--a gap of 38 percentage points.23

text versionChapter 1 Box 1-3: Post Secondary education and other training


In 1998, the civilian veteran population totaled over 25 million. Over 15 million of these veterans are in the civilian workforce.24 They bring a host of skills into the workplace. Those who performed high-tech tasks in the military can transfer their skills to civilian jobs that use the same type of technology. Many possess skills that can be applied in the fields of information technology, engineering, and communications. There were many technological advances underlying the success of the United States in the recent Kosovo conflict. Many of those who served in the Kosovo conflict and are returning to civilian life are armed with the knowledge that drove that technology. They offer employers abundant resources.

In general, the adaptability of veterans’ skills is evidenced by the fact that veterans overall have a lower unemployment rate than nonveterans. However, not all veterans have an easy time making the transition to the civilian workforce: females, minorities, and those with disabilities have disproportionately higher unemployment rates. These veterans face the same barriers to full employment as their civilian counterparts.


Employment trends among youth--the workers of the future--are of particular interest. Since young people will be a significant part of the population in the years ahead, their attachment to the workforce will be particularly important. More than a third of 14-to-16-year-olds who were enrolled in school also worked at an "employee" job (defined as having an ongoing relationship with a particular employer) at some point while school was in session during 1996.25 Even at these young ages, many of these student workers had a fairly strong attachment to the formal labor market: most worked while school was in session as well as during the summer.26 The typical young person held an average of nearly nine jobs between the ages of 18 and 32, with more than half of the job changes occurring before age 23.27

While the actual number of young people in the labor market will likely increase as the population increases, at least two pressures will counter a large rise. First, an increasing number of school districts are considering year-round programs, which may keep young people out of the labor market. Second, the premium on education will cause young people to stay in school longer and delay their move into the labor market. On the other hand, the Clinton-Gore administration’s School-to-Work initiative may increase opportunities for youth to work while learning.

Later chapters will show how skills attainment is critical to success in the future workplace. Yet of youth 16 to 24 years old, 15 million are out of school and are not pursuing additional education.

Nearly 70 percent of them have no more than a high-school diploma.28 Consequently, they face a lifetime disadvantage in the workforce. These 10 million youths with a high-school diploma or less are the focus of the administration’s Youth Opportunity (YO) Movement. These young people form a major source of human capital for the next century. YO is building a national partner-ship with the private sector to invest in these young people, unlocking their talents and helping ensure the longterm success of our future workforce. (See box 1.4.)


Change has been a constant in the demographic landscape of the United States. The next 50 years will be no exception. The population will increase by 50 percent, and minority groups will make up nearly half the population. Certain populations will experience particularly large increases, including Hispanics, Asians, immigrants, and people with disabilities.

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Chapter 1 Box 1-4: Investing in our future

The workforce will also grow and mirror the increasing diversity of America. Women’s employment rates are rising, while those of men are declining somewhat. Increasing numbers of persons with disabilities are entering the workforce, although this labor pool is still largely untapped. The face of the workforce will continue to change, reflecting the changing features of the U.S. population.

The educational attainment of the American workforce is rising in time to meet the serious demands of the next century’s highly technical, highly changeable job market. At century’s end, more than 4 out of 5 Americans ages 25 and older have completed high school, and nearly a quarter have a bachelor’s degree or higher--dramatic increases from 30 years ago. Americans are recognizing that education and skills will play an ever-more-critical role in their labor market success--finding jobs, earning higher wages, weathering change, and retiring with a pension.

People with disabilities are increasingly a powerful presence in America, from our schools to our businesses to the halls of government. But maybe equally important, increasingly a welcome, comfortable, normal presence. President Roosevelt said, "No country, no matter how rich, can afford to waste its human resources."

President Bill Clinton
January 13, 1999

22 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Data extracted April 10, 1999.

23 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Survey of Income and Program Participation. See "3 of 10 Persons with Severe Disabilities Are Active in the Labor Market." The Editor's Desk, November, 5, 1998 and "Education Has Positive Impact on Labor Market Activity of Severely Disabled." The Editor's Desk, November, 12, 1998. For more information, see Thomas W. Hale, Howard V. Hayghe and John M. McNeil "Persons with Disabilities: Labor Market Activity, 1994", Monthly Labor Review, September 1998. Data in these reports are a product of the Bureau of the Census.

24 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

25 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Longitudinal Surveys. See "More Than a Third of Youths Combine School and Jobs." The Editor's Desk, May 13, 1999. Additional information is available from "Employment Experience and Other Characteristics of Youths: Results from a New Longitudinal Survey," news release USDL 99-110.

26 Twenty-eight percent of the students who held employee jobs worked both while school was in session and also during the summer, 8 percent worked only during the school months, and another 6 percent worked only during the summer months.

27 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Longitudinal Survey. See "People Average 8.6 jobs from Ages 18 to 32,"The Editor's Desk, October 13, 1998.

28 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, November 1998, Table A-16.

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