Labor Day Celebration: Labor Force Participation Rises to 62.4% As 612,000 Americans Join Labor Force

Susan Jones | September 2, 2022 | 7:27am EDT
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A shop displays a sign announcing reduced store hours due to a labor shortage, on July 29, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
A shop displays a sign announcing reduced store hours due to a labor shortage, on July 29, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Heading into Labor Day, the U.S. Labor Department on Friday issued a mostly positive report on the U.S. employment situation -- the unemployment rate rising to 3.7 percent in August from 3.5 percent in July; but the labor force participation rate also rising three-tenths of a point to 62.4 percent, a move in the right direction, as 612,000 people entered the labor force.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the nonfarm economy added 315,000 jobs in August, below above the 526,000 (revised) added in July and in line with the 300,000 estimate for August. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, and retail trade.

(In a separate report, BLS noted that the number of job openings was little changed at 11,239,000 million on the last business day of July.)

The unemployment rate increased two tenths of a percent, to 3.7 percent from 3.5 percent as the number of unemployed people -- no job but actively looking for one -- increased by 344,000 in August.

Notably, the number of employed Americans also climbed by 442,000 in August to 158,732,000, a Biden-era high and close to the Trump-era high of 158,866,000 set in February 2020, the start of the COVID pandemic.

In August, the civilian non-institutional population in the United States was 264,184,000. That included all people 16 and older who did not live in an institution, such as a prison, nursing home or long-term care facility.

Of that civilian non-institutional population, 164,746,000 were participating in the labor force, meaning they were either employed or unemployed -- they either had a job or were actively seeking one during the last month. This resulted in a labor force participation rate of 62.4 percent in August, the highest it's been since March, and up from 62.1 percent in July.

The participation rate was 61.4 percent when Joe Biden took office as the pandemic raged. Today's number, 62.4 percent, is still below the Trump-era high of 63.4 percent in February 2020, just before COVID shut things down.

After rising for more than three decades, the overall labor force participation rate peaked in early 2000 at 67.3 percent and subsequently trended down. In recent years, baby-boom retirements have contributed to the decline in the overall participation rate.

In another positive sign, the number of Americans not in the labor force -- no job and not looking for one -- dropped below the 100,000,000 mark set last month, settling at 99,439,000. That means some 612,000 Americans joined or rejoined the labor force last month.

The “not in the labor force” category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.5 percent) and Hispanics (4.5 percent) rose in August. The jobless rates for adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (10.4 percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (6.4 percent), and Asians (2.8 percent) showed little change over the month.

In August, 6.5 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 7.1 percent in the prior month. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey specifically because of the pandemic.

In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 10 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $32.36. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.2 percent.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised down by 105,000, from +398,000 to +293,000, and the change for July was revised down by 2,000, from +528,000 to +526,000. With these revisions, employment in June and July combined is 107,000 lower than previously reported.

Price stability

In a recent speech, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said his "overarching focus" is to bring inflation down to 2 percent.

But he warned that inflation reduction -- what the Fed calls "price stability" -- will be painful.

"Restoring price stability will take some time and requires using our tools forcefully to bring demand and supply into better balance. Reducing inflation is likely to require a sustained period of below-trend growth.

"Moreover, there will very likely be some softening of labor market conditions. While higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses. These are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation. But a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren  (D-Mass.) later criticized the Fed's plan to further raise interest rates, telling CNN: "What [Powell] calls 'some pain' means putting people out of work, shutting down small businesses because the cost of money goes up, because the interest rates go up."

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