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Unemployment up at 3.7%...AUG jobs under Trump HERE

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.


  1. The labor force consist of only employed and unemployed (on unemployment insurance) people in a country. If they burn through their 99 weeks of unemployment they are no longer counted. 177,000 jobs a month (which is just a preliminary number now) is not enough to spur growth of any kind.

  2. Hi Nick.. I'm glad you stopped by. Hopefully I can help to clear up your misconceptions. I don't know where you are getting your information, Nick, but I'm sorry to say that it is wrong.

    First of all, the 177,000 extra people in the civilian labor force is NOT a number of jobs. It is the number of people who were not looking for work nor working in May who have decided to start looking for work or to start working in June MINUS the number of people who were working or looking for work in May who decided to stop working or looking for work in June. In other words, it is a NET number.

    The number of jobs added in June was about 196,000.


    The number of people on unemployment insurance has very little to do with the number of people who are unemployed. I write about this over and over at this blog; perhaps if you read here a bit more, you won't be subject to misinformation.

    I'll come back and post the links that will tell you exactly how the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate is calculated.

    People can be counted as unemployed FOREVER. Two years, five years, ten years. The BLS DOES NOT CARE if someone is or is not getting unemployment insurance when it determines if someone is unemployed. If someone has been actively looking for work, at least ONE effort in the past four weeks, he/she is counted as unemployed.

    The icing on the cake of this fact is this: Right now we have about 11,500,000 officially unemployed. And only about 5,000,000 are getting unemployment benefits. So that in and of itself would tell anyone that you do not need to be collecting unemployment benefits to be considered unemployed according to the BLS.

    And due to the aging of the population, we only need about 70,000 new jobs a month to accommodate the people in the population who are looking for work. Which is why the unemployment rate is going down. We've been adding about 180,000 jobs a month for the past two and a half years. That "extra" 100,000 jobs a month is why the unemployment rate has gone down about two points during those two and a half years. We need jobs for about 150,000 people MORE than the extra number of people looking for work for the unemployment rate to come down a tenth of a percent (11,500,000 divided by 7.4 or 15,000,000 divided by 10.0.. These are the unemployment rates and respective unemployment levels now and at the peak of unemployment in October 2009.)

    So 30 months times 100,000 "extra" jobs a month equals 3,000,000 "extra" jobs. Divide that by 150,000 jobs for every tenth of a point and we get 20 tenths of a point or a two point drop in the unemployment rate. Over the past two and a half years, the unemployment rate has dropped 1.7%, which is pretty close to the "rule of thumb".

  3. I'm sorry Molly you are wrong. The Current Population Survey is just that, a survey. It is not the most accurate way to measure the unemployment rate or any other statistic in the U.S, but rather the easiest.

    "Some people think that to get these figures on unemployment, the Government uses the number of persons filing claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under State or Federal Government programs. But some people are still jobless when their benefits run out, and many more are not eligible at all or delay or never apply for benefits. So, quite clearly, UI information cannot be used as a source for complete information on the number of unemployed."

    So has you can see the amount of people who leave (UI) are never counted. They are forgotten or not included in the survey. A survey where 2,200 people choose the households they contact and interview.

    "A sample is not a total count, and the survey may not produce the same results that would be obtained from interviewing the entire population."

    "The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) labels people who are unemployed and no longer looking for work as “not in the labor force,”and that includes people who have retired on schedule, taken early retirement, or simply given up looking for work."

    The Labor Force Participation Rate is also decreasing. Only 63.4% of the available working population is at work.

    Obama has lost over 9.5 million jobs

    You are wrong.

    1. I suggest you take a course in basic reading comprehension. You righties are pathetically dense. I don't know why I try to explain things and explain them and explain them again. You don't have the analytical abilities that you need to understand any of this stuff. And it's really not rocket science, Nick; it really isn't. So I'll try again.

      I must say that I'm stunned that you interpreted that passage as you did. Where did you go to school?

      The BLS is explaining why they CANNOT use UI numbers to determine the unemployment rate. They are telling you that they CANNOT use UI numbers because people may still be unemployed AFTER their benefits run out. So they have to use OTHER ways to determine how many people are employed or unemployed.

      The simple fact that we have 11 million people unemployed and only 5 million collecting unemployment insurance should be evidence that the BLS counts many, many people, 6 million now, who are not getting any kind of unemployment insurance.

      Oh.. You think that CNS is some kind of valid source. No wonder you don't understand anything you read.

      Maybe I'll write more tomorrow about some of the things you mention.


  4. By the way the June report:

    Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)

    7.6% unemployment
    188,000 jobs added

    July report:
    7.4% unemployment
    only 162,000 jobs added

    The decrease in the unemployment rate obviously has very little to do with the amount of jobs added.

    "The civilian labor force, which consists of the employed and the officially unemployed, is now at 155,798,000. This is a decrease of -37 thousand from last month, as the drop in the unemployed exceeded those who became employed."

    "A huge problem with today's labor market is the gross number of working part-time generally. There are a huge number of people who need full-time jobs with benefits who can't get decent career oriented positions. Those forced into part time work is now 8,245,000, an increase of 19,000 from last month. Those stuck in part-time has no change from a year ago, and this too is not a good sign of the labor market as we would want these figures to decline. This is a hell of a lot of people stuck with part-time hours who need full-time work."

    There is no way you can say the job environment is improving at all. You must not live in the real world. People have no ambitions of finding work, and the work they do find pays no where near what their skills and education dictates they should be making. Hours are being reduced, wages have stagnated and no one but retail and food services are hiring. You know the minimum wage jobs.

    Thank you for allowing me to inform you once again.

    1. Nicky, dear, I write a blog about jobs. What are the chances that you really know more about this stuff than I do?

      The unemployment rate and jobs numbers come from two different sources. The unemployment rate, number of people employed, number of people working part-time, etc., comes from the CPS, the Current Population Survey, which is conducted for the BLS by the Census people.

      It is a smaller sample than the Establishment survey, the jobs numbers; as a result, it is more volatile. In any one or two month period, the jobs numbers may not match the CPS numbers. Seasonal adjustments in particular often do not line up between the CPS and Establishment surveys. Over time, the numbers are close.

      You have made a lot of allegations that are simply untrue. I don't know where you live, but if people have "no ambitions of finding work", how are they living? People have to eat and keep a roof over their head.

      And here's a simple question: Why have we hired 1,000,000 more fast food and restaurant workers in the past three years if things are so bad? Look, restaurants are not going to hire people to work in said restaurants unless they have...... what's the magic word? CUSTOMERS! The first thing that people cut down on when the economy dips or when they get laid off is eating out. The number of restaurant workers as a percent of the population drops off during a recession. And as people feel more confident and have more money to spend, they start eating out and restaurants hire people. No restaurant is going to hire people (especially with all of the ObamaCares rumors) unless they have..... What's that magic word again? CUSTOMERS!

      So I'm sorry if things are miserable in your neck of the woods, but, as they say in the baseball world,

      "somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
      The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
      And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;"

      But there is no joy in Nickie's world. CNS and the rightwing media have struck out. Again.

      Again, I hope I can get back and add a few comments, but I'm not one of your friends who seems to feel that, despite billions more in wages being paid out each month now vs. four years ago, life still sucks. No, things certainly aren't perfect and we are not anywhere close to the golden age of the middle class that we experienced in the late 50's and 60's... but things are much, much better than they were four years ago in most areas of the country. Unless you watch Faux news, read CNS, and listen to Rush and his ilk.


I appreciate intelligent comments and questions, including those that are at odds with anything posted here. I have elected not to screen comments before they are published; however, any comments that are in any way insulting, caustic, or intentionally inflammatory will be deleted without notice. Spam will also be immediately deleted.