Record 92,584,000 Not in Labor Force; Participation Hits 36-Year Low

By Ali Meyer | October 3, 2014 | 9:19am EDT

(AP File Photo)

( - A record 92,584,000 Americans 16 and older did not participate in the labor force in September, as the labor force participation rate dropped to 62.7 percent, a level it has not seen in 36 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.

Six times in the last twelve months, the participation rate has been as low as 62.8 percent; but September's 62.7 percent is the lowest since February of 1978.

The participation rate is the percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population who participated in the labor force by either having a job or actively seeking one. Those not in the labor force are those who not only did not have a job, but they did not actively seek one in the last four weeks.

BLS employment statistics are based on the civilian noninstitutional population, which consists of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution such as a prison, mental hospital or nursing home.

In September, the civilian noninstitutional population was 248,446,000 according to BLS. Of that 248,446,000, 155,862,000 -- or 62.7 percent -- participated in the labor force, meaning they either had or job or had actively sought one in the last four weeks.

Of the 155,862,000 who did participate in the labor force, 146,600,000 had a job and 9,262,000 did not have a job but actively sought one. The 9,262,000 are the unemployed. They equaled 5.9 percent of the labor force—or an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent (which was down slightly from the 6.1 percent unemployment rate in August).

The Congressional Budget Office, in an August 2014 update to its Budget and Economic Outlook, said the "temporary weakness" in the labor force participation rate "is expected to largely disappear by the end of 2017."

CBO projected that increased hiring would bring the unemployment rate to 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017.

CBO also said that greater hiring will encourage some people to reenter the labor force, slowing both the decline in the unemployment rate and the decline in labor force participation rate.

"CBO anticipates that the labor force participation rate ... will decline slightly -- from 62.8 percent in the second quarter of 2014 to 62.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017," the update said.

The U.S. Labor Department says retiring baby boomers account for the lowering  of the overall labor force participation rate.

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