Number Not in the Labor Force Drops Below 100,000,000 for First Time in Biden Presidency

Susan Jones | December 3, 2021 | 7:52am EST
Text Audio
00:00 00:00
Font Size
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

( - In November, 99,977,000 people in this country did not have a job and were not looking for one -- a decrease of 473,000 since October and the lowest number since Joe Biden became president, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.

This number reached a record high of 103,418,000 in April 2020, the fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic, and it has remained above 100,000,000 for 14 straight months until now.

Among those not in the labor force in November, 1.2 million people said were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, little changed from October.

Yet, in November, more Americans were working or looking for work.

In November, the civilian non-institutional population in the United States was 262,029,000. 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, 162,052,000 were participating in the labor force, meaning they either had a job or were actively seeking one during the last month. This resulted in a labor force participation rate of 61.8 percent in November, up 0.2 points month-to-month, and the best showing since Biden took office.

(The 162,052,000 labor force participants mentioned above is the sum of the employed and the unemployed.)

After rising for more than three decades, the overall labor force participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent in early 2000, then started drifting down, a situation attributed partly to the rising number of retiring baby boomers.

The labor force participation rate reached a Trump-era high of 63.4 percent in January 2020, just before the onset of COVID. In April 2020, the rate fell to a 47-year low of 60.2 percent. It has moved up since then, but until this month, it remained within a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.7 percent since June 2020.

The number of employed Americans -- those either working or looking for work -- increased by 1,136,000 to 155,175,000 in November. And the number of unemployed (those who do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work) also dropped substantially by 542,000 to 6,877,000.

This produced an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, down from 4.6 percent in October.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.0 percent), adult women (4.0 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Blacks (6.7 percent), and Hispanics (5.2 percent) declined in November. The jobless rates for teenagers (11.2 percent) and Asians (3.8 percent) showed little change over the month.

Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. Employment in retail trade declined over the month.

BLS said 210,000 jobs were added to nonfarm payrolls in November, about half of the 573,000 jobs analysts were expecting.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised up by 67,000, from +312,000 to +379,000, and the change for October was revised up by 15,000, from +531,000 to +546,000. With these revisions, employment in September and October combined is 82,000 higher than previously reported.

Thus far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 555,000.

In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 8 cents to $31.03. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.8 percent.

Notably, the November report covers the period before the world learned about the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

At a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this week, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell said, "It has been a bit of a surprise that we haven't had more of a recovery" in the labor force participation rate.

"And I really think the single most important thing is to get past the pandemic, then we're really going to know how permanent this is. People get surveyed and they do say substantial numbers of people are concerned about going back to work at a time when the pandemic is still moving around. And so, I think that's the key -- which means more vaccination, more boosters."

Appearing the same hearing, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen agreed that "in the short run, vaccinations and increasing the number of people who have boosters to get the pandemic under control, to reduce the number of cases, that's the single most important thing we need to do to create an environment in which people feel it's safe to work."

At that same hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said, "We celebrate a 4.6 percent unemployment rate. But what we've sometimes missed is the fact that when we have fewer people looking for work, your unemployment rate goes down because your long-term unemployment goes up, which means that your labor force participation rate also goes down."

BLS describes labor force participation as an important labor market measure because it represents the relative amount of labor resources available for the production of goods and services.

Also, people who work contribute payroll and Social Security taxes that help support programs for people who do not work.


Also See:
Yellen and Powell Agree on 'Single Most Important Thing' to Boost Labor Force Participation


mrc merch