The workforce participation rate is now at its lowest rate in 30 years, with 63.6 percent of adults who could work actually working.
When people can’t find work, they adjust. Families spend less. Children move in with parents. Some people seek additional training to improve their marketable skills. And some former workers apply for various forms of public assistance, such as unemployment compensation, food stamps, or welfare. But since the historic welfare reforms of 1996, welfare for able-bodied adults is generally limited to five years (except in California, where they’ve always sought an exemption). This appears to have caused a shift to other forms of public assistance.
The number of Americans drawing checks from the federal government via Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income Program swelled from 7.0 million in FY 2007 to an estimated 8.0 million in FY 2012, with the growth rate in the program doubling at the onset of the recession. This program is expected to cost taxpayers about $52 billion in FY 2012.