To me, the number that sums up the year’s doldrums is the 1.27 million increase in the number of disabled Americans without jobs from November 2011 to November 2012. This statistic reflects not only the sluggish recovery but also a drifting nation, badly in need of tough medicine.
There are now 8.8 million workers receiving disability payments from Social Security. I find this number haunting.
The disabled are part of the far larger number of Americans who have left the labor force altogether since the recession, and who don’t seem to be coming back. About 88.9 million people in the U.S. are now out of the labor force, 2.4 million more than a year ago and 11.4 million more than in 2006. Thirty years ago, there was a 40-to-1 ratio between the total labor force and those workers receiving Social Security disability payments. Today that ratio is less than 18-to-1.