Labor Force Participation Rate Dropped to 62.8% In April: 94,044,000 Out

Susan Jones | May 6, 2016 | 6:40am EDT
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A sign at a Pittsburgh job fair earlier this year. (AP Photo/ Keith Srakocic)

( - The number of Americans not in the labor force last month totaled 94,044,000, 562,000 more than in March -- and the labor force participation rate dropped to 62.8 percent (near a 38-year low), following four straight months of slight improvement.

When President Obama took office in Janaury 2009, the labor force partipation rate was 65.7 percent, after hovering in the 66-67 percent range for much of the George W. Bush presidency.

The recession inherited by the Obama administration officially ended in June 2009, but the labor force participation rate continued to drop during Obama's two terms, hitting 62.4 percent in September 2015, its lowest point in 38 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the economy added 160,000 jobs in April (compared with 215,000 in March). Over the prior 12 months, employment growth had averaged 232,000 per month.

The April unemployment rate held steady at 5.0 percent. (It was also 5.0 percent in March, up a tenth of a point from the 4.9 percent in January and February.)

In April, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population, consisting of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 252,969,000. Of those, 158,924,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 158,924,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 62.8 percent of the 252,969,000 civilian noninstitutional population.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 5,793,000 people in April as "persons who currently want a job," up from 5,712,000 in March.   

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Hispanics increased to 6.1 percent in April, while the rates for adult men (4.6 percent), adult women (4.5 percent), teenagers (16.0 percent), Whites (4.3 percent), Blacks (8.8 percent), and Asians (3.8 percent) showed little or no change.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 150,000 to 2.1 million in April. These individuals accounted for 25.7 percent of the unemployed.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (also referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was about unchanged in April at 6.0 million and has shown little movement since November. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In April, 1.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 400,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 568,000 discouraged workers in April, down by 188,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in April had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

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