Last year, 86 million Americans were not counted in the labor force because they didn’t keep up a regular job search. Most of them were either under age 25 or over age 65.
By ANNALYN CENSKY | CNNMONEY | MAY 4, 2012
There are far more jobless people in the United States than you might think.
While it’s true that the unemployment rate is falling, that doesn’t include the millions of nonworking adults who aren’t even looking for a job anymore. And hiring isn’t strong enough to keep up with population growth.
As a result, the labor force is now at its smallest size since the 1980s when compared to the broader working age population.
“We’ve been getting some job growth and it’s been significant, but it hasn’t yet been strong enough that you start to get people re-engaging in the labor market,” said Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job market dropouts
A person is counted as part of the labor force if they have a job or have looked for one in the last four weeks. Only about 64% of Americans over the age of 16 currently fall into that category, according to the Labor Department. That’s the lowest labor force participation rate since 1984.
It’s a worrisome sign for the economy and partly explains why the unemployment rate has been falling recently. Only people looking for work are considered officially unemployed.