94,785,000 Not in Labor Force; At 62.9%, Labor Force Participation Stuck Near 38-Year Low

By Susan Jones | September 1, 2017 | 8:42am EDT
The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that the economy added 156,000 jobs last month, fewer than analysts anticipated, and the August unemployment rate increased a tenth of a point to 4.4 percent.

(CNSNews.com) – Heading into the Labor Day weekend, the latest jobs report is a disappointment.

Tthe number of Americans over age 16 who are not in the labor force – for whatever reason – remained stubbornly high in August, at 94,785,000.  That is partly attributed to the rising number of retirements among Baby Boomers.

As recently as December 2016, a record 95,102,000 Americans were not in the labor force, and the number has hovered near that record high so far in 2017.

At the same time, the labor force participation rate -- the percentage of the civilian, non-institutional population that is either working or actively seeking work – was unchanged in August at 62.9 percent, near its 38-year low of 62.4 percent set in September 2015.

The higher the participation rate, the better for the overall economy.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that the economy added 156,000 jobs last month, fewer than analysts anticipated, and the August unemployment rate increased a tenth of a point to 4.4 percent.

In the eight months since January, the number of employed Americans has set five records, most recently in July. But in August, BLS counted 153,439,000 Americans as employed – 74,000 fewer than in July.

The effects of Hurricane Harvey are not included in the most recent BLS report.

In August, the nation’s civilian noninstitutionalized population, consisting of all people age 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 255,357,000. Of those, 160,571,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 160,571,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 62.9 percent of the 255,357,000 civilian noninstitutionalized population.

According to BLS, the August job gains occurred in manufacturing, construction, professional and technical services, health care, and mining.

Employment growth has averaged 176,000 a month so far this year, lower than the average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016.

BLS has revised downward the number of jobs added in June (from +231,000 to +210,000) and in July (+209,000 to +189,000). With these revisions, employment gains in June and July combined were 41,000 less than previously reported.

According to the most recent Federal Reserve Beige Book, an anecdotal summary of current economic conditions, labor markets are tightening for both low- and high-skilled positions, particularly in the construction and IT sectors. The report noted that contacts across a broad range of industries reported a shortage of qualified workers, which has limited hiring.

Wages continued to grow at a modest to moderate pace in most Federal Reserve Districts, and many firms attributed these wage gains to tighter labor market conditions.

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