Before America applauds yesterday’s jobs report, with unemployment dropping from 6.3 percent in April to 6.1 percent in June, another upward trend is cause for concern. The real story behind the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for June is that the number of Americans 16 and older who did not participate in the labor force climbed again, to a record high of 92,120,000.
Practically speaking, this means there were 92,120,000 Americans 16 and older who not only did not have a job, but did not actively seek one in the last four weeks. That is up 111,000 from the 92,009,000 Americans who were not participating in the labor force in April.
In June, according to BLS, the labor force participation rate for Americans was 62.8 percent, matching a 36-year low. The participation rate is the percentage of the population that either has a job or actively sought one in the last four weeks.
In December, April, May, and now June, the labor force participation rate has been 62.8 percent.
Before December, the last time the labor force participation rate sank as low as 62.8 percent was in February 1978, when it was also 62.8 percent. At that time, Jimmy Carter was president.
At no time during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, did such a small percentage of the civilian non-institutional population either hold a job or at least actively seek one.
Now let’s go out and celebrate the 4th of July.