Mike Rowe is back on camera saluting people who work the sometimes thankless and often disgusting careers that keep this country running. And he’s noticing a disturbing trend in the labor force that may be a telling sign for the future.
The Emmy-nominated host revived Dirty Jobs this year after taking nearly a decade off. During a conversation with the Associated Press, he admitted that the pandemic reframed the idea of essential work. So he wanted to jump back into the concept.
Rowe’s show returned to the screen this past January. And while traveling the country and exploring the obscure careers that people are working, he recognized that there are millions of people out there who are still willing to put in the long hours to support their families. But he also recognized that there is a new generation of people who don’t want to work at all.
The workforce participation rate is currently sitting at 62.30%. That number represents the percentage of able-bodied, working-aged people who are in the labor force or who are unemployed but are actively trying to find jobs.
The rate alarms Rowe because it proves that there are seven million men between 25 and 54 who are choosing not to earn an income.
“That worries me. Because there are 11 million open jobs in the country. A lot of them look dirty. Most of them are better than people think and almost none of them require a four-year degree.”
Mike Rowe Explains Why the Current Workforce Participation Rate is ‘Chilling’
In a separate interview with The Brian Kilmeade Show in October, he further expressed that the workforce participation rate surprises him because it shows that so many people are there “are affirmatively not looking for work.”
“They’ve punched out. They’re done,” he added after saying the realization is “chilling.”
Mike Rowe spends his life campaigning for blue-collared employees. And he makes it a point to preach about strong work ethics. So knowing that millions of people out there are staying home and logging “over 2,000 hours a year on screens,” doesn’t sit right with him.
“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 argued.
The workforce participation rate and unemployment rates are both “left over from the Depression era.” The government began tracking the workforce in the 1930s to understand why the economy collapsed. And what they learned was that there was a “lack of opportunity” for people.
In 2022, however, there are plenty of open jobs. People just don’t want to accept them.
“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,” he said.