Percentage of Americans Working or Looking for Work Drops to 36-Year Low

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

America’s labor force has shrunk in size to a level not seen since the Carter administration in the late 1970s.


The percentage of Americans employed or seeking employment, 63.3%, is now the lowest since 1978 (63.2%), according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


Today, there are 155 million people in the labor force, which has been in decline since the beginning of the century.


The labor force grew steadily during the closing decades of the 20th century. But demographic and economic changes have caused it to slow during the first dozen years of the 21st century.


For one thing, the Baby Boom generation is retiring, resulting in a large exodus of workers. Those remaining in the workforce have endured two jobless recoveries following the recessions of 2001-2002 and 2007-2009, which displaced millions of workers. Many of those laid off during the Great Recession are still struggling either with unemployment or underemployment.


Looking ahead, the BLS projects modest growth in the labor force through 2022.


The labor force is projected to reach 163.5 million in another eight years, with an annual growth rate of only 0.5% over the 2012–2022 period. This growth is expected to be smaller than during the previous 10-year period (2002–2012), when the labor force grew at a 0.7% annual growth rate.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Labor Force Projections to 2022: The Labor Force Participation Rate Continues to Fall (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Percentage of Americans with Jobs Hits 31-Year Low (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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