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.
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