Thursday, May 30, 2013

Weekly Initial Claims Increase (May 30th report)

Weekly unemployment initial claims increased by 10,000 this week to 354,000.  This is the second increase in the past three weeks; however, the number of claims has been inconsistent but generally lower over the past two months.


First time unemployment jobless claims increased to 354,000  for the week ending May 25th.  Since the beginning of the year, new weekly claims have remained in the 325,000 to 365,000 range for eighteen out of the past twenty-one weeks.  

The four-week moving average # of claims increased by 
6,750 last week after increasing by 500 the week before.  It is now 347,250.  Initial claims continue now at about the same level that they were five years ago, in late 2007 to early 2008.  


(Even though the weekly initial claims numbers are seasonally adjusted, these numbers are always a bit volatile and should  only be analyzed in terms of a trend over a period of weeks.  See the graph below.) 


For the week ending May 11th, 4,578,592 people were receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that are available (regular state, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This was a decrease of about 167,000  total claims since the previous week.  The decrease was proportionally divided between a decrease of about 114,000 claims in the number of continuing claims in the Regular State program (the first 20 to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits) and a decrease of about 50,000 continuing claims in the Federal Extended Unemployment Benefits program (the "Tiers").

1,559,654 FEWER 
people are receiving unemployment benefits now vs. one year ago.  We do not know what has happened to the people who are no longer receiving benefits; we do not know how many of those 1,559,654 people found employment, how many retired, etc.  We do know that there are 1,729,000 MORE people reporting themselves as employed than a year ago and there are  2,094,000 MORE non-farm jobs.  We also know that a grand total of 51,838,000 hires have been made by employers between April 2012 and March 2013, the latest month for which numbers are available.  (Some people may have been hired more than once during the year, so the number of "hires" is generally higher than the number of people who have been hired.)   

 

The percent of unemployed people receiving benefits increased to about 41.6% for the week ending May 11th.


If you are receiving benefits, you may be interested in these two reports:  



The chart above is one of the BEST charts for understanding and observing changes in the weekly initial claims numbers over time.  This year (red:  2013) and the past three years (blue:  2010green:  2011 and black:  2012) are marked in different colors.  You can see that, as a trend, first time claims for unemployment have declined from one year to the next, even though there are variations within the year.  Though the number of initial unemployment claims has been variable over the past three months, it has continued a downward trajectory.  

Be aware that:
  1. The graph above shows first time claims, so people who have continued to receive benefits or who have lost unemployment benefits are not counted in these numbers.  
  2. They are seasonally adjusted, so most variations caused by weather or holidays are already included in these numbers.  
  3. As these are weekly numbers, they are more volatile than the monthly numbers.



In the week ending May 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 354,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 344,000. The 4-week moving average was 347,250, an increase of 6,750 from the previous week's revised average of 340,500.

As usual, to put all of this into perspective, check out the red line on the chart above to see where jobless claims are now, in 2013, compared to the past three years.

First time unemployment claims increased by 14,000 over those reported last week.  Initial claims as announced last week were  340,000, so the claims from that week were revised upwards by 4,000 to 344,000.  There are usually slight upwards revisions  (1,000 to 3,000) in the numbers of initial claims in most weeks.  (The chart above shows REVISED claims numbers.)

Current February/March/April Initial Claims Continue to be the Lowest Since Late 2007/Early 2008.

As a whole, the current numbers of initial claims continue to be the lowest Winter-Spring initial claims numbers since late 2007/early 2008.
  

Continuing regular state claims, from people who are continuing to claim unemployment through the initial 20 to 26 week regular unemployment program, increased by 63,000 for the week ending May 18th after decreasing by 101,000  the week before.  2,986,000 people filed continuing regular state claims in the week ending May 18th.  As a whole, continuing regular claims continue to decline despite some individual weekly increases.  (There were 3,283,000 continuing claims a year ago.) 

Total number of people receiving unemployment insurance is 41.5% of the officially unemployed for the week ending May 11th.  

The weekly report also tells us the total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits.  For the week ending May 11th, 4,578,592 people were receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that are available (regular state, extended benefits, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This compares with 11,014,000 people who are unemployed in unadjusted numbers according to the monthly April unemployment situation report which was released Friday, May 3rd.  Those numbers, showing that only 41.6% of the officially unemployed are receiving benefits, should make it clear that people do NOT need to be receiving unemployment insurance to be counted among the unemployed.  (This ratio and these two numbers are NOT seasonally adjusted.)

Extended Benefits (EB) No Longer Available in any State


Extended Benefits claims were only available in Alaska during the weeks ending April 27th and May 4th.  Extended Benefits were no longer available in Alaska (or any other state) starting the week ending May 11th.  

As of the week ending May 11th, only 65 people were still receiving Extended Benefits, as mentioned above.  A year ago, 312,000 people were receiving Extended Benefits.  As recently as April 2012, 412,411 people were receiving Extended Benefits.

Therefore, over the last year, 99.9% of the people who were receiving Extended Benefits are no longer receiving such benefits.  We do not know how many of these 312,000 people found jobs, how many have another source of income in the family, and how many have nothing. 

To reiterate, while a decrease in the number of people FILING for initial claims is a good thing and indicates that fewer people are being laid off, a decrease in the TOTAL number of people getting unemployment insurance may only show that fewer people are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Any questions or confusion, please leave a comment or email me!



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yes, Twenty Million People DID Lose Their Jobs in 2012!

Trent Hamm, writing at The Simple Dollar.com, referenced my post about the number of people who were laid off or discharged in 2012.  (That link at the Simple Dollar site is no longer active.)  Hamm writes:  

As found on Amazon.com HERE!


According to this survey, 68% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Two out of every three adults living in the United States would suffer significant challenges if their next paycheck were delayed or absent.
In 2012, about 20,500,000 Americans lost their jobs, according to this data analysis. Even if you don’t perfectly agree with that analysis, you can’t argue that the number is somewhere in the ballpark. 2012 was actually a very low year for job loss, too. 
Thus, at some point in 2012, about 13 million Americans faced a crisis in which they lost their job and they were so financially weak that they faced immediate hardships without their next paycheck. That’s about one in twelve adults. 
Staying afloat just isn’t enough. 
In a given year, about one in eight adults is going to lose their employment position. If you’re one of the majority of Americans who would struggle if you lost your job and missed even a paycheck, you’re adding a gigantic risk to your life.


If you are one of the twenty million who will get a pink slip... 



Trent goes on to make some great points about being prepared for the worst:  If you turn out to be one of those twenty million who does get one of those pink slips this year, make sure you are ready!
 

Unemployment IS going down; we've added millions of jobs the past two years, and an increasing number of people are working full-time vs. part-time. But-- many people don't realize that there is tremendous "churn" in the workforce what with seasonal jobs, part-time jobs, and companies opening and closing.  Even in the job growth year of 2012, over 20 million people got pink slips!  Now many more quit (about 25 million) and even more were hired (about 52 million), but it seems prudent both to have a solid rainy day fund AND to have one foot out the door of your current employer with your resume updated just in case, which is what Trent discusses in his article. 

I know too many hard-working people with valuable degrees and solid work histories who have been laid off just in the past two years after the worst of this recession. If they are older (50 or 55 plus), they generally are not finding jobs equivalent to their previous job.. if they are finding jobs at all. 



I left a comment and added a couple of suggestions:
  • I really don't think that two months of living expenses is enough, though that depends on whether or not you have a working spouse or partner. Also remember that if the economy ever takes a nosedive, as it did in 2008, two months living expenses is really peanuts. Six months to a year might be better. Remember that most people whose homes went into recession in 2008-2009 didn't have adjustable mortgages or fraudulent mortgages or foreclosures; they lost their homes the old fashioned way: They lost their jobs, couldn't find new ones, and went through whatever savings they had.
  • Trent talks about "Building Your Resume Now" and not wasting time at work.  I would suggest not wasting time AFTER work either. Take a course that can add value to current or future employers. Learn a skill online that you can add to your resume. Start a mini-business that can perhaps turn into a full-time business. Keep in touch with former work friends. Plan on spending 5-10 hours a week outside of work on activities that can make you more valuable to future employers.. or to yourself. Schedule that time. 



Unfortunately, we can no longer count on the jobs that we have and, increasingly, everybody is expendable.

For People Fighting Debt and Bad Habits: 


Please visit Trent Hamm's site  The Simple Dollar "for (people) who need both cents and sense: People fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money."

(Hamm has also written a book entitled The Simple Dollar and subtitled:  "How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of his Dreams.")


how many fired series

Monday, May 20, 2013

Private & Government Jobs Gained & Lost Under Obama (April 2013 update)


JUNE 2013 BLS Jobs Numbers and Unemployment Rate were released, Friday, July 5th.  Details and links HERE!!
How many jobs (total, private, and government) have been lost or gained since Obama was inaugurated?
  • 4,311,000 TOTAL jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were LOST in from the time Obama took office until the "trough" of the recession in early 2010.  That's a decrease of 3.2%.    
  • 6,154,000 jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were CREATED from the "trough" of the recession until now, April 2013.  That's an increase of 4.8%.
  • In total, 1,843,000  jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were ADDED from the time Obama took office until now, April 2013.  That's an increase of 1.4%.
  • We have experienced 31 months WITHOUT job losses since September 2010.  We have ADDED 5,543,000 jobs during those 31 months. 
  • We now have 135,474,000 TOTAL non-farm jobs. 
*  These are all net figures, meaning that they represent the total number of jobs at the end of a reporting period.  All losses have been subtracted from all gains and vice verse.
    *  For the purposes of comparison, jobs are being added at a faster clip under Obama than under George Bush at the same time in his presidency.  At this point in Bush's presidency (March 2005), there were only 329,000 MORE jobs than when he was inaugurated in January 2001 compared to 1,564,000 MORE for Obama.   (This will be updated for April 2013 in the next few days.)


    How many PRIVATE sector jobs have been lost or gained since Obama was inaugurated?
    • 4,198,000 PRIVATE-sector jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were LOST from the time Obama took office until the "trough" of the recession in early 2010.  That's a decrease of 3.8%.
    • 6,780,000 PRIVATE-sector jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were GAINED OR CREATED from the "trough" of the recession until now, April 2013.  That's an increase of 6.3%.
    • In total, 2,582,000 private sector jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) have been GAINED from the time Obama took office until now, March 2013.  That's a net increase of 2.3%. *
    • We have experienced 38 months of positive private-sector job GROWTH from February 2010 until April 2013.  We have added 6,780,000 private-sector jobs during those 38 months.    
    • We now have 113,630,000  PRIVATE sector non-farm jobs.
    *As of March 2013,  jobs are being added at a faster clip under Obama than under George Bush at the same time in his presidency.  At this point in Bush's presidency (March 2005), there were still 576,000 FEWER private sector jobs than when he was inaugurated in January 2001 compared to 2,282,000 MORE for Obama.  The number of private-sector jobs didn't eclipse the number when Bush was first inaugurated until June 2005, in Bush's second term.  (This will be updated for April in the next few days.)   



    How many GOVERNMENT jobs have been lost or gained since Obama was inaugurated?  (Government jobs include federal, state, and local government jobs.)
    • 113,000 GOVERNMENT jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were LOST from the time Obama took office until the "trough" of the recession in early 2010.  That's a decrease of  .5%  (about half of a percent). 
    • Another 626,000 GOVERNMENT jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were LOST from the "trough" of the recession until now, April 2013.  That's a decrease of 2.7%.    
    • In total, 739,000 GOVERNMENT jobs (in seasonally adjusted numbers) were LOST from the time Obama took office until now, April 2013.  That's a decrease of 3.3%.  A large portion of these jobs, at least 350,000, have been lost in the "Local Government - Education" sector. (Teachers.)
    • We have experienced decreases in the number of government jobs in 26 out of the last 34 months, starting in June 2010, when the layoff of 2010 Census workers began.  We have experienced declines in the number of government jobs in the last 6 out of the last 7 months.     
    • We now have 21,844,000 GOVERNMENT jobs, not including people in the military.  (Civilians employed by the U.S. and working for the military are counted.)
    (Note:  Current numbers taken from the April 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report.  Historical numbers taken from various archived Employment Situation reports as indexed HERE. Specifics will be provided upon request; please email me or leave a comment.)

    An afterthought---

    A reader asks:

    How Many Private Sector Jobs Were Lost Because of Obama?

    We haven't lost ANY private sector jobs (net) since February 2010, a year after Obama took office.  Between January 2009 and February 2010, we lost 4,198,000 private sector jobs as stated above.

    Should we "blame" Obama for not being immediately able to stem the tide of private sector job loss in 2009?  If a house is burning out of control and the fire department comes to put out the fire, it continues to burn until it is brought under control and cooled down, right?  Now.. would you blame the fire department for the continued fire and the time to put it out after the firefighters arrive on the scene?

    Well, you might, but I wouldn't:  Here's my reasoning:  Burning Down the House!

    So my answer to this question would be a big, fat ZERO.  I do NOT feel that Obama is to blame for any loss of jobs between January 2009 and February 2010.  If you think he is, please leave a comment and explain!

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Jump


    Weekly unemployment initial claims increased by 32,000 this week to 360,000.  The increase follows two weeks of initial claims in the 320,000 range AND 3 out of 6 weeks of significant decreases in initial claims.  Weekly claims numbers tend to be volatile and weekly seasonal adjustment factors can also throw the numbers off, so we won't know if this increase is meaningful until we see if it becomes a pattern (or does not become a pattern) over the next few weeks.  (The chart below shows that a significant increase in initial claims at the end of March did not continue.)  


    First time unemployment jobless claims increased to 360,000  for the week ending May 11th.   This is a sizable increase of 32,000 claims.  Since the beginning of the year, new weekly claims have remained in the 325,000 to 365,000 range for sixteen out of the past nineteen weeks.  This week's number is an increase after two weeks of claims numbers in the 320,000 range. 

    The four-week moving average # of claims increased by 
    1,250 last week after decreasing by 5,000 the week before.  It is now 399,250.  Initial claims continue now at about the same level that they were five years ago, in late 2007 to early 2008.  


    (Even though the weekly initial claims numbers are seasonally adjusted, these numbers are always a bit volatile and should  only be analyzed in terms of a trend over a period of weeks.  See the graph below.) 


    For the week ending April 27th, 4,843,806 people were receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that are available (regular state, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This was a decrease of about 31,000  overall claims since the previous week.  Most of the decrease was in the number of continuing claims in the Regular State program (the first 20 to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits), which decreased by 57,747.  Continuing claims in the Federal Extended Unemployment Benefits program (the "Tiers") increased  by about  29,000 claims.

    1,429,702 FEWER 
    people are receiving unemployment benefits now vs. one year ago.  We do not know what has happened to the people who are no longer receiving benefits; we do not know how many of those 1,429,702 people found employment, how many retired, etc.  We do know that there are 1,729,000 more people reporting themselves as employed than a year ago and there are  2,094,000 more non-farm jobs.  We also know that a grand total of 51,838,000 hires have been made by employers between April 2012 and March 2013, the latest month for which numbers are available.  (Some people may have been hired more than once during the year, so the number of "hires" is generally higher than the number of people who have been hired.)   

     

    The percent of unemployed people receiving benefits increased to about 44.0% for the week ending April 27th.


    If you are receiving benefits, you may be interested in these two reports:  




    The chart above is one of the BEST charts for understanding and observing changes in the weekly initial claims numbers over time.  This year (red:  2013) and the past three years (blue:  2010green:  2011 and black:  2012) are marked in different colors.  You can see that, as a trend, first time claims for unemployment have declined from one year to the next, even though there are variations within the year.  Though the number of initial unemployment claims has been variable over the past three months, it has continued a downward trajectory.  

    Be aware that:
    1. The graph above shows first time claims, so people who have continued to receive benefits or who have lost unemployment benefits are not counted in these numbers.  
    2. They are seasonally adjusted, so most variations caused by weather or holidays are already included in these numbers.  
    3. As these are weekly numbers, they are more volatile than the monthly numbers.




    In the week ending May 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 360,000, an increase of 32,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 328,000. The 4-week moving average was 339,250, an increase of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average of 338,000.
    As usual, to put all of this into perspective, check out the red line on the chart above to see where jobless claims are now, in 2013, compared to the past three years.

    First time unemployment claims increased by 37,000 over those reported last week.  Last week's initial claims numbers were revised upwards by 5,000.  There are usually slight upwards revisions  (1,000 to 3,000) in the numbers of initial claims in most weeks.  (The chart above shows REVISED claims numbers.)

    The initial claims as announced last week were 323,000, so the claims from that week were revised upwards by 5,000 to 328,000. 


    Current February/March/April Initial Claims Continue to be the Lowest Since Late 2007/Early 2008.

    As a whole, the current numbers of initial claims continue to be the lowest Winter-Spring initial claims numbers since late 2007/early 2008.
      

    Continuing regular state claims, from people who are continuing to claim unemployment through the initial 20 to 26 week regular unemployment program, decreased by 4,000 for the week ending May 4th after decreasing by 19,000  the week before.  3,009,000 people filed continuing regular state claims in the week ending May 4th.  As a whole, continuing regular claims continue to decline despite some individual weekly increases.  (There were 3,309,000 continuing claims a year ago.) 

    Total number of people receiving unemployment insurance is 44.0% of the officially unemployed for the week ending April 27th.  

    The weekly report also tells us the total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits.  For the week ending April 27th, 4,843,406 people were receiving unemployment benefits under one of the programs that are available (regular state, extended benefits, federal extended unemployment compensation, or a few other smaller programs).  This compares with 11,014,000 people who are unemployed in unadjusted numbers according to the monthly April unemployment situation report which was released Friday, May 3rd.  Those numbers, showing that only 44.0% of the officially unemployed are receiving benefits, should make it clear that people do NOT need to be receiving unemployment insurance to be counted among the unemployed.  (This ratio and these two numbers are NOT seasonally adjusted.)

    Extended Benefits (EB) No Longer Available in any State



    Extended Benefits claims were only available in Alaska during the weeks ending April 27th and May 4th.  Extended Benefits are no longer available in Alaska (or any other state) starting the week ending May 11th.  

    As of the week ending April 27th, only 502 people were still receiving Extended Benefits, as mentioned above.  A year ago, 304,755 people were receiving Extended Benefits.  As recently as April 2012, 412,411 people were receiving Extended Benefits.

    Therefore, over the last year, 99.9% of the people who were receiving Extended Benefits are no longer receiving such benefits.  We do not know how many of these 305,000 people found jobs, how many have another source of income in the family, and how many have nothing. 

    To reiterate, while a decrease in the number of people FILING for initial claims is a good thing and indicates that fewer people are being laid off, a decrease in the TOTAL number of people getting unemployment insurance may only show that fewer people are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

    Any questions or confusion, please leave a comment or email me!



    Sunday, May 12, 2013

    Happy Mother's Day! Women 55+ Lead Population Growth.. Again!





    Women 55+ are the fastest growing population group in the country over the past 13 years!


    We've added 31,300,000 people to the "civilian non-institutional population 16+" since January 2001, the month that George Bush entered the White House.  38.3% (12,000,000) of those people are women 55+, that big blue piece of pie above (compared to 37.4% of last year's increase since 2001).  Now the number of men 55+ has also gone up substantially; 38.0% (11,900,000) of those additional 31.3 million people are men 55+ (compared to 37.3% of last year's increase since 2001).  Notice the big red piece of pie.  (The "civilian non-institutional population 16+" is the base demographic used to determine employment, unemployment, and that elusive "not in the labor force" contingent.)  


    No, this doesn't mean that millions of people over 55 are entering this country; it means that the huge Baby Boomer cohort, born in 1946 until about 1964, is getting older.  Expect the number of people 55+ to increase for another 5 - 10 years until the Baby Busters start to hit 55.  Now, the implications of this aging population are great:  Fewer people working, more people getting older and disabled, and more stress on our social safety net and health care systems.  

    The other groups?

    • Women 25-54:  1,600,000 + 
    • Men 25-54:       1,500,000 +
    • Women 16-24:  2,100,000 +
    • Men 16-24:        2,300,000 +  


    But for now, Happy Mother's Day, Moms & Grandmas 55 and over.  There are certainly a lot of us!

    (And Happy Mother's Day to all of the Moms and Grandmas under 55 as well!)

    (This post was updated from last year.)


    While we're talking about Moms and Grandmas:











    (Should be:  "Past, Present or Soon-To-Be MOM".  One of these days, the people who create these photos and memes on Facebook will get the spelling and grammar right.. maybe.)  

    And one of my all-time favorites:




    Friday, May 10, 2013

    How Many Jobs Were Created or Lost in April 2013?

    165,000 new jobs were CREATED or ADDED last month, in the month of April 2013.  

    The private sector generated (added) 176,000 new jobs, but the government sector continued to shed (lose) jobs, 11,000 jobs, in April 2013.

    293,000 MORE people reported themselves as working in April 2013. 
             

    The unemployment rate decreased to 7.5% in April 2013, due to an increase in the number of people employed (plus about 300,000) and a decrease in the number of people unemployed (minus about 100,000).        About 200,000 people entered the labor force in April.    The unemployment rate has been below 8.0% for months in a row now.  

    Sunday, May 5, 2013

    How Many People Have Left the Work Force Since Obama Was Inaugurated? (Updated for June 2015)


    How Many People Have LEFT the Work Force (Labor Force) Since Obama Took Office?





    Well, in NET numbers:  NONE!  The SIZE of the Labor Force HAS NOT declined.  Continue below....


    *******************************************************************

    June 2015 numbers were released Thursday, July 2.
    Details HERE.
    June: +223,000 jobs, Unemp. Rate down to 5.3%.
    ******************************************************************

    We have MORE people in the labor force now than we did when Obama was inaugurated; in fact, the labor force now in late 2014/early 2015 is the largest EVER in this country:
    • As you will see, the number of people who are in the civilian labor force is volatile, with tens of thousands of people entering and leaving the labor force every month.
    • In January 2009, just before Obama was inaugurated, there were 154,210,000 people in the civilian (labor) work force.
    • In June 2015 there are 157,037,000 people in the civilian (labor) work force. 
    • That is an INCREASE of 2,827,000 people in the civilian (labor) work force since Obama was inaugurated.
    • In May 2014, 192,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In June 2014, 81,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In July 2014, 329,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In August 2014, 64,000 people left the civilian labor force.
    • In September 2014, 97,000 people left the civilian labor force.
    • In October 2014, 416,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In November 2014, 119,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In December 2014, 273,000 people left the civilian labor force.
    • In January 2015, 1,051,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In February 2015, 178,000 people left the civilian labor force.
    • In March 2015, 96,000 people left the civilian labor force.
    • In April 2015, 166,000 people joined the civilian labor force. 
    • In May 2015, 397,000 people joined the civilian labor force.
    • In June 2015, 432,000 people left the civilian labor force. 
    Above:  NUMBER of people in the Civilian Labor Force (thousands) 1947 through 2014
      (BLS Table LNS11000000)
    Above:  Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate (a percent) 1947-2014 
    (BLS Table LNS11300000)


















    What does this mean?


    The "civilian labor force" is the number of people working, either part-time or full-time, either employed by an employer or self-employed, either on a farm or in an office or factory, PLUS the number of people actively looking for work within the last four weeks.  If you are completely retired, you are not in the civilian labor force.  If you haven't looked for work for a few months, even if you want work, you are not in the civilian labor force.  You also have to be at least 16 and NOT in an institution or in the active military to be counted in the civilian labor force.

    There is NO ideal civilian labor force size.

    The PERCENTAGE of people (not the NUMBER of people) in the civilian labor force has been going down for the past 15 years.  The NUMBER of people now in the civilian labor force is near a peak.  We have never had this many PEOPLE in the civilian labor force as we have had in recent months.  When women stayed home with children, the civilian labor force percentage was MUCH lower than it was later, in the 1980's and 1990's, when women entered the work force in large numbers and when fewer of them left the work force when they had children. We have a population now that is rapidly retiring.  As a result, almost all population growth over the past 10 years has occurred in the 55 and over age group.  Therefore, the percentage of people in the civilian labor force has fallen, as we would expect it to.

    The recent recession has kept some people out of the labor force, but we really don't know how people who are not even bothering to look for work are surviving.

    More later about this, but my point is:  The PERCENTAGE of people who are looking for work or working has gone down, we don't really know how much of this is due to retirement, to people electing to stay home with family members or children as they have another source of income, nor do we know how many people are living on assets or the income of a family member, nor do we know how many plan to return to the work force at a later date.

    In and of itself, a lower civilian labor force participation rate is NOT necessarily a bad thing.  It means that people may be staying in school, people may be retiring earlier, parents may be home with children or helping a disabled family member.  Those reasons for staying out of the work force are generally positive.  Do we really want old people to work until they drop?  Do we really want all parents to put infants in day care and run back to work if they have other options?  Do we really want people to drop out of school at 16 to enter the work force?

    The civilian labor force is VOLATILE.


    In good economic times and bad, people leave and join the civilian labor force.  It is a function of both demographics and economics.  If more people reach retirement age, more of them will quit their jobs (retire) and drop out of the labor force.  If it is perceived to be beneficial to have more education, more people will enter school and some of them will quit the labor force to do so.  If people are having a hard time finding a job, they may stop actively looking for work at least for a while and leave the labor force.



    But, even in good economic times, some people will have a hard time finding work and they will stop looking.  And even in bad economic times, some people will decide that they should look for a job and start looking.

    Unfortunately, the BLS doesn't keep a good track of why people leave or join the labor force, but it does publish  "Flows" data that tells us how many go from being "employed" to "not in the labor force", or from "unemployed" to "not in the labor force".  This last group, the people who were looking for work one month and are no longer looking for work, are the classic group of labor force drop-outs, people who have "dropped out of the labor force" because they couldn't find a job. As with most jobs numbers, the numbers of people entering the job market need to be compared to the numbers of people leaving the job market to get "net" numbers.



    More on the flows data, on people entering the leaving the labor force, HERE.