JEB Bush said: "workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows"
"My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in."
There was some clarification. Also, Rick Klein of ABC noted:
But in their context and later clarification, it's clear that Bush was making a very serious point about a very real issue: underemployment. That makes this episode an early test of Bush's strength in the Republican field, as well as a challenge to his rivals who would consider pouncing on the moment. Would they want to attack Bush when they agree - and in fact are largely building their entire campaigns - around his broader point about an Obama economy that has left too many working too few hours?
link for Klein text: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/note-jeb-bush-meant/story?id=32324497
One notes that the issue of low work force participation [e.g., "Under President Obama, we have the lowest workforce participation rate since 1977" and separately --The percentage of Americans in the workforce — those who either have a job or are actively seeking one — dropped to 62.6 percent, a 38-year low. -- is distinct from underemployment.
This is of special concern because "underemployed" are considered to be IN the workforce. If one normalized to a factor such as "hours worked" instead of "Americans in the work force", the situation would look worse.
As to older Americans, note from the BLS in 2008:
Since the mid-1990s there has been a dramatic shift in the part-time versus full-time status of the older workforce. The ratio of part-time to full-time employment among older workers was relatively steady from 1977 through 1990. Between 1990 and 1995, part-time work among older workers began trending upward with a corresponding decline in full-time employment. But after 1995, that trend began a marked reversal with full-time employment rising sharply. Between 1995 and 2007, the number of older workers on full-time work schedules nearly doubled while the number working part-time rose just 19 percent. As a result, full-timers now account for a majority among older workers: 56 percent in 2007, up from 44 percent in 1995.
The percentage of people 65 and older in the labor force increased from 12.1 percent in 1990 to 16.1 percent in 2010.
And, from CNBC
America's workforce is aging, with nearly a third of workers now over 50 and employees over age 65 outnumbering teenage workers for the first time since 1948.