Mike Rowe Speaks Out About Men Leaving the Workforce: ‘Most Chilling Metric of All’

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

The current US unemployment rate may be sitting at a respectable 3.5%. But Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe warns that we shouldn’t be fooled by the seemingly good news.

Rowe sat down with The Brian Kilmeade Show this week to talk about the upcoming election and the economy. And he had concerns about employment metrics as a whole.

As Kilmeade pointed out, the country has a healthy unemployment rate. At 3.5%, that means that less than six million people are jobless and actively seeking work. But, as Rowe pointed out, that’s not the whole picture.

The workforce participation rate is at 62.30%, which means that roughly 80 million of the over 128 million working age people in the country are working, and they do not want to work.

Mike Rowe said that the math boils down to “seven million able-bodied men between the ages of 25 and 54 [who] are not only not working, they are affirmatively not looking for work.” And he believes “that is the most chilling metric of all.”

“They’ve punched out,” he said. “They’re done.”

Mike Rowe Believes There is an Abundance of Opportunity in the United States

The 60-year-old reality TV star has made a living off of cheering for the blue-collared American and their dedication to less-than-glamorous careers. And he firmly believes in a strong work ethic. But Rowe sees a trend that shows work ethic has gone by the wayside. Instead, “the vast majority” of people choosing to remain unemployed “spend over 2,000 hours a year on screens” and have no ambition to do more.

“Now, I’m going to get a lot of pushback for this because people will say, well, you’re just calling lots and lots of people lazy. No, I’m not,” he continued.

In Rowe’s opinion, the unemployment rate “is an artifact left over from the Depression era.” The government began tracking it in the 1930s, during the height of the country’s most devastating economic collapse. The metrics helped officials understand that the collapse happened because of a “lack of opportunity.”

But with 11 million jobs open today, the working force doesn’t have a lack of opportunity. Mike Rowe believes there is instead a lack of drive, and he thinks we need to learn why people are so passive in the modern day.

“You have 7 million able-bodied men sitting it out,” he continued. “So what’s really happening in the country now that scares me right to my core fundamentally is that we’ve never had so much unrealized opportunity and so little enthusiasm for it.”