Record Low Labor Participation Rate Not Due to Retirement or School

The October unemployment report showed a record low labor participation rate of 62.8%, graphed below.  Many dismiss these record low labor participation rates by claiming more people are retiring and young people are just in school.  Is this true or is something more sinister going on?

Raiding retirement just to survive

It appears especially the middle aged, you know those ones who desperately need a job and are denied, are raiding their 401ks. From Fidelity Investments Q2 2010 statistics on 401k, retirement accounts:

the percentage of participants either initiating a loan or a hardship withdrawal increased. Loans initiated over the past 12 months grew to 11% of total active participants from about 9% one year prior. The portion of participants with loans outstanding also increased two full percentage points in the second quarter to 22%. The average initial loan amount as of the end of the second quarter was $8,650 with an average loan duration of three and half years.

Frankly I thought this number would be much higher, for we have horrific stories of people posting online their suicide notes. Maybe it is because those who are going homeless already blew past any retirement savings. Regardless, a sign of the times and this is only people who have retirement savings to tap into.

Boom Go the Boomers

Business Week has an interesting article on baby boomers.

While we have already questioned the statistics on the jump in savings rate, the story shows just how focused policy makers are on Americans being consumers instead of producers.

Some statistics claimed in the article:

Wall Street Wants your Pension

Woah, new article from Business Week is pointing to regulators allowing:

The folks who brought you the mortgage mess and the ensuing hedge fund blowups, busted buyouts, and credit market gridlock have another bold idea: buying up and running troubled corporate pension plans. And despite the subprime fiasco, some regulators may soon embrace Wall Street's latest scheme.

In preparation for that moment, the world's biggest big investment banks, insurers, hedge funds, and private equity shops have been quietly laying the groundwork for such deals over the past year. They would be a big prize for Wall Street. The $2.3 trillion pension honey pot has $500 billion in "frozen plans" that are closed to new employees and whose benefits are capped

Nice catch from Business Week!