Labor Day 2015: 93.7 million American adults aren’t working & aren’t trying

Scott's Run, West Virginia. Unemployed bachelor, US National Archives, March 19, 1937
[Above image: Scott’s Run, West Virginia. “Unemployed bachelor.” 1937, US National Archives]

  • Besides the officially “unemployed,” 93 million other Americans aren’t working and aren’t looking for jobs

If it seems like you’re running into more people who aren’t working and don’t appear to be trying to find jobs…it’s not your imagination.

According to the U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor participation rate has hit 62.6 percent. That’s the worst in 38 years, since the dog days of 1977. The “labor participation rate” measures the percentage of people age 16 or older who are working or actively looking for a job.

Labor participation has hit 62.6% –a 38 year low.

This means more than 37% of America’s potential work force has given up or isn’t even trying to find a job. More than one in three. And that means the burden of feeding the payroll tax monster–paying taxes on wages and for social security–is falling upon a shrinking group of people who do work.

The dim statistic is at odds with others more often cited in the news media as reason for optimism. For example, there are more job openings today than at any point since the government began tracking it in 2000. In June, the unemployment rate was at a seven year low: 5.3 percent. In August it fell to 5.1 percent. So how could it also be true that so many people aren’t even trying to work?

That’s because of a statistical decision the government made in 1994. It decided that people who aren’t working and haven’t been interested in looking for a job for a long time shouldn’t be counted as unemployed. They are simply removed from the calculation, as if they don’t exist.

Read the 1994 Bureau of Labor Statistics Changes

At the time, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics called it “a relatively minor change.” But the result has been that, ever since 1994, the unemployment figure under both Democrat and Republican administrations looks better than it otherwise would. Sometimes, far better.

Democrats defend unemployment stat

Using this statistical method, the Bureau of Labor Statistics removed 640,000 Americans from unemployment statistics in June. They joined almost 94 million others who aren’t working and aren’t looking. Critics argue the statistic is accurate but misleading because the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes many people who are too old or too young to work.

Read US News and World Report article
Read the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s report
Read how the govt. currently calculates “unemployed”


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9 Responses to “Labor Day 2015: 93.7 million American adults aren’t working & aren’t trying”

  1. Nikkip
    September 7, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Can you blame them! The work force is more like the broke force. If you do manage to get a job you don’t get paid enough and, they treat you like a dog. I’m looking into a new career right now but, let’s be honest it’s a bad time to be employed anywhere.

    • Danny P. Radcliff
      September 14, 2015 at 8:59 am #

      People get paid what they are worth. If you aren’t getting paid enough, it is because you lack marketable skills–it’s not the work force’s fault. You are looking into a new career–good for you, at least YOU are trying.

      There are people hiring everywhere I look, yet people claim they can’t get a job–that is total B.S. They would rather spend 90+ weeks on unemployment letting their work experience atrophy, then look for government handouts for the rest of their lives. That is, after all what the progressive left wants.

      The plan, all along has always been get the country to a tipping point where more people are on the dole that actually working–bingo–you have total control (See Cloward and Pivin). Who are these people going to vote for? No one, except politicians that are willing to continue to support them.

      Pushing illegal immigration, taking on refugees is all part of the same plan. 90% of all illegal immigrants are on some sort of government subsistence. Instant Democrat for life. Yet they try to tell us these illegals are somehow helping the economy–clearly they think we are stupid.

      This country is truly at a tipping point–if we don’t get a true conservative into the White House, who is willing to do what is necessary to turn this ship around–this country will be lost and the rest of the world will go down the tubes with us.

      So, to answer your question–YES, I can BLAME them. Any able-bodied adult under the age of 65 who isn’t working is no better than the illegal draining taxpayer dollars all the while, complaining how much they hate America. Being deliberately unemployed is UN-AMERICAN.

  2. Webster
    September 8, 2015 at 1:32 am #

    I’m sorry, but your claims about the 1994 changes are flat wrong.

    First of all, “discouraged workers” have *never* been included in the unemployment rate. The standard for being “unemployed” has always been that one had no work in the reference period (the week containing the 12th of the month, currently) but that one was actively seeking and available to accept work in the last few weeks. The unemployment rate is the ratio of “unemployed” to the size of the labor force (employed plus “unemployed”). Prior to 1994, this was called U-5, and starting in 1994, it became known as U-3, but it was the same calculation. This also aligns with the international standard issued by the ILO (part of the UN).

    The 1994 change that actually affected how “discouraged workers” were treated statistically is that to count as “discouraged”, workers must report some active job search in the last year AND report that they are available to work. Previously, their availability to work had been based on what must have been some lousy assumptions based on personal characteristics, because the number of workers classified as”discouraged” dropped by half.

    The 1994 change that was described as “a relatively minor change” was actually a decision to treat workers who volunteered that they were expecting to start a new job within 30 days according to the same rules as everyone else, instead of automatically lumping them in with the “unemployed”. As you can imagine, most people expecting to start a new job soon probably did some job search activity fairly recently, so the number of people affected by this change is truly minor.

    In fact, the 1994 changes overall led to a *higher* reported unemployment rate, as the biggest changes increased the number of people identified as unemployed when previously they reported being “temporarily away from work” or “on layoff”.

    There are real problems with the economy, especially in the area of jobs, but the 1994 changes to the CPS aren’t hiding them, they’re giving us a clearer picture.

  3. Hank Rand
    September 8, 2015 at 1:44 am #

    This is an excellent piece on incredibly unfortunate phenomenon.

    When you consider the decimation of the labor force in tandem with the Obama Administration’s expansive allowance for social safety nets — you’d be quickly forgiven for wondering if it’s somehow by-design. The left consider it a great victory when more and more people “take advantage” of their programs, and they’re also notorious for “not letting good crises go to waste.”

    Benjamin Franklin famously said “I am for doing good to the poor, but I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

    Apologies for the partisan tilt here at Sharyl Attkisson’s expressly non-partisan web real estate…but welcome to the Obama-era America, where living in poverty has never been made easier.

  4. D.L
    September 8, 2015 at 5:03 am #

    A lot people are not working because it’s easier to sit around on welfare or “disability”.

  5. A contrarian responding to Nikkip
    September 8, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Nikkip says it is a bad time to be employed anywhere. Perhaps, but it is also a bad time for small employers to employ while trying to balance making a profit in a climate which has so many regulatory burdens and heavy expenses dictated by governments — plural — from city, county, state and federal together. I would not open a business in this climate, and apparently Nikkip is not also. Complain all one wants about the “bad time,” but then go out and try to build your own business before complaining about employers.

  6. CWilliamC
    September 9, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    I’m one of those who has stopped looking for woek. Obviously I’m not counted. I’ve been out of work for 3 years due to a disability. I’d like to know where all of these “jobs” are. Around here in Connecticut it’s pretty bleak!


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