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Workers dropping out of the work force for school: Bad sign for the economy

More and more people are dropping out of the labor force in favor of further education. But they're doing it because they think they have to.

John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Wellesley College student Kiira Gustafson gives a presentation to a class in this file photo. More and more workers are dropping out of the labor force to go to school, but Karlsson argues that those workers would prefer better job opportunities.

Some analysts are trying to put a positive spin on the unprecedented drop in the labor force participation rate as simply being a question of more people seeking to get more education. I find it indeed quite likely too that a very large portion of those that have dropped out of the labor force have started in school again.

But that begs the question of why do they want to go back to school? Because it's fun or because it's interesting? Not likely, except perhaps for a small minority. Instead, the reason why they go back to school is because they're unable to find a job and thinks that additional education will enable them to get a job. That may perhaps be a good idea for the people in question, but that doesn't in anyway change their status as discouraged, hidden unemployed as almost all would quit school and immediately take a job if they could (at least assuming it's a steady job).

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