Jobs and Participation Rates

Just for fun, let’s look to see how the economy is doing:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 215,000 in March, and the unemployment
rate was little changed at 5.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Employment increased in retail trade, construction, and health
care. Job losses occurred in manufacturing and mining.

In March, the unemployment rate (5.0 percent) and the number of unemployed
persons (8.0 million) were little changed. Both measures have shown little
movement since August.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.5 percent),
adult women (4.6 percent), teenagers (15.9 percent), Whites (4.3 percent), Blacks
(9.0 percent), Asians (4.0 percent), and Hispanics (5.6 percent) showed little or
no change in March.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was
essentially unchanged at 2.2 million in March and has shown little movement since
June. In March, these individuals accounted for 27.6 percent of the unemployed.

In March, the labor force participation rate (63.0 percent) and the employment-
population ratio (59.9 percent) changed little. Both measures were up by 0.6
percentage point since September.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (also referred to
as involuntary part-time workers) was about unchanged in March at 6.1 million and
has shown little movement since November.

In March, 1.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down
by 335,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)
Among the marginally attached, there were 585,000 discouraged workers in March,
down by 153,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)

So overall things are doing ok but not great. People will often bring up the fact that the labor participation rate is on a downward trend:


This misses the demographic changed over the years (the large increase in the participation rate from the 1960s through the 1990s was caused by the increased participation by women, while the decreased participation is partly explained by the aging of the US population), so let’s look just at adults who are 25-54, mostly past college age and mostly before retirement age (form here, here, and here):


You can see that the participation rate has steadily been falling for men since the 1950s while the rate for women peaked in 2000 and has gone down slightly since then (the current rates, for 25-54, are: 74.2% for women; 88.8% for men; 81.4% combined).

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