Oct 7, 2017 Employment Explosion
June 26, 2017 Why's the FED Panicking?
May 25, 2017 LFPR anyone?
Apr 26, 2017 What's up with the FED?
March 10, 2017 Feb Employment Situation
Oct 10, 2016 Tax Burden
Aug 1, 2016 Here Comes the Debt
June 26, 2016 Moribund US Economy
June 16 2016 Labor Update
Mar 10, 2016 Spring Renewal for Labor Markets?
Feb 21, 2016 GDP Gap
Feb 16, 2016 FED and Monetary Policy
Jan 19, 2016 Employment Gap Age Groups LFPR
Jan 10, 2016 A look at the Employment Situation
Dec 30, 2015 Fed Funds Rate up 25 Basis points...so what?
Dec 15, 2015 Fed Funds on the rise? Has Yellen 'Fell-in'?
Oct 15, 2015 Labor Markets Seven years of misery
Oct 6, 2015 Sept: Horrible Month for Labor
Sept 30, 2015 The FED: Interest Rate Angst
Sept 11, 2015 FED on the Monetary Policy Front
July 31, 2015 Trade and Foreign Exchange Rates
July 20, 2015 Economic Growth?
July 10, 2015 Labor Picture by Age Group
July 2, 2015 Disastrous Month in Labor Rpt
June 19, 2015 Minimum Wage - Income Distribution
Jun 5, 2015 Encouraged Worker Effect
May 8, 2015 Updated Employment Situation for April
May 4, 2015 Languishing Labor Markets
Apr 7, 2015 LFPR Doldrums on the Labor Front
March 8, 2015 Less than Zero Interest Rates - Trade War
2014 Articles
2013 Articles
2012 Articles
Dec 31, 2012 Fiscal Cliff --- Increased Spending
Dec 24, 2012 Fiscal Cliff---Rising Revenues with current tax cuts?
Dec 13, 2012 November Jobs Report
Nov 28, 2012 Regulation and the Financial System
Nov 17, 2012 Employment Escarpment - Moving the Jobs Needle
Oct 31, 2012 Update on Shale Gas and Tight Oil
Oct 11, 2012 Restructuring of an Industry: US Light Vehicles
Sep 4, 2012 Resuscitating the Moribund US Economy
August 4, 2012 Unemployment Rises Again
July 21, 2012 Misguided Fiscal Policy: Is it a case of fool’s gold, or the Consequences of Economic Ignorance?
July 6, 2012 Let Freedom  Ring!!! The Shale Gale
June 26 Productivity Macro
June 11, 2012 Painted into Corner
June 4, 2012 Encouraged Worker Effect
May 28, 2012 European Honeymoon Over
May 14, 2012 Back to Basics
May 4, 2012 Labor Force Participation Rate Shrinking
Apr 26, 2012 Income Distribution
Apr 15, 2012 Energy Independence
Apr 6, 2012 Jobs Jobs Jobs
Mar 27, 2012 Gas Prices Killing Economic Growth
Mar 15, 2012 Rough Road or Smooth Sailing?
March 9, 2012 Employment Challenges Ahead
Mar 6, 2012 Stalled US Economy?
Mar 1, 2012 FED Profitabiility
Feb 22, 2012 Population Changes
Feb 13, 2012 Bernanke on Unemployment
Feb 8, 2012 Lower Unemployment - Bad News?
Feb 3, 2012 Chinese Miracle???
Jan 12, 2012 Low Interest Rates - Why so low?
Jan 9, 2012 Labor Force Participation Rate
2011 & 2010 Articles
About us
Links of Interest
Straw Poll
Definitions & Miscellaneous

2012 Volume Issue 2

Economic Newsletter for the New Millennium

February 8, 2012

Donald R. Byrne, Ph.D.

Associate Editor
Edward T. Derbin, MA, MBA

For a downloadable version, click here

Labor Force Participation Rate Jan 2012.pdf

Labor Force Participation Rate by Age Group 

So you think a drop in the unemployment rate from 8.5% in December 2011 to 8.3% in January 2012 is a sign of improvement in the economy?  Think again!

January  2009 versus  January  2012

Brought to you by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/  

In January 2009 the CIVILIAN NONINSTITUTIONAL POPULATION  (16+ year-old, not in instutions, i.e., military, prison, etc.) was 234,739,000; in January 2012 the CIVILIAN NONINSTITUTIONAL POPULATION was 242,269,000 


In January 2009 the CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE (employed + unemployed) was 154,185,000; in January 2012 the CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE was 154,395,000

CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE grew by 210,000


In January 2009 total EMPLOYED was 142,201,000; in January 2012 total EMPLOYED was 141,637,000

1,659,000 fewer EMPLOYED


In January 2009 total UNEMPLOYED was 11,984,000; in January 2012 total UNEMPLOYED was 12,758,000

774,000 more UNEMPLOYED


UNEMPLOYMENT RATE = Unemployed divided by the Labor Force

In January 2009 UNEMPLOYMENT RATE was 11,984,000 / 154,185,000, or 7.8%; in January 2012 total UNEMPLOYMENT RATE was 12,758,000 / 154,395,000, or 8.3%


Let’s get this straight: 

From January 2009 to January 2012


CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE (Employed + Unemployed) grew by 210,000

EMPLOYED fell by 1,659,000

UNEMPLOYED rose by 774,000

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE increased by 0.5%


So you ask what about last month?  Wasn’t the movement from 8.5% Unemployment Rate to 8.3% a good thing? How can that be?


…keep in mind that January includes data affected by the Census Bureau’s estimation updates relating to the Current Population Survey which is the basis for metrics related to measuring National Unemployment.


If January 2012 LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATE (63.73%) had been the same as December 2011 (63.96%)


UNEMPLOYMENT RATE = Unemployed divided by the Labor Force

In December 2011 UNEMPLOYMENT RATE was 13,097,000 / 153,887,000, or 8.5%


Adjusting January 2012 total at the 63.96% December Labor Force Participation Rate UNEMPLOYMENT RATE was 13,327,792 / 154,964,792, or 8.6%


The UNEMPLOYMENT RATE would have risen by 0.1%!  This is why the focus has to be on metrics other than the just unemployment. 


Caution: Keep in mind that when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January,” they are referring to a different survey – the Current Establishment Survey (or Payroll Survey) to measure changes in job growth.  There are two different surveys employed by BLS, Household (Current Population Survey – CPS) and Payroll (Current Establishment Survey – CES).  While it is a good thing to point out the increase on the Payroll side, keep in mind that this is in effect a subset of the Household Survey.   

Back to the Labor Force Participation Rate

While the media and wishful thinkers revel in what officialdom has released as a drop in the unemployment rate, a more in depth analysis raises many red flags about the validity of this metric.  Let’s highlight these warning flags first before we go into the devilish details.

The overall Labor Force Participation Rate has fallen again from 63.96% in December 2011 to 63.7% in January 2012.  It is the lowest reading since December, 1981! 

This is clearly a sign that people have opted out of the workforce (labor force).  It goes beyond even what is captured in the U-6 Unemployment measure that typically picks up ‘discouraged workers’, those people who have stopped looking due to economic conditions.  In essence it comes down to two categories: those ‘discouraged workers’ who indicate that they will return to the workforce (labor force) when the job prospects reappear; and those who think they will never find work again – hence, they have opted out. 

What will happen when the economy truly does improve is that we will see an uptick in the Labor Force Participation Rate, indicating that those who left the Labor Force will have returned. 

The Labor Force Participation Rate has fallen below 64% and highlights the problem with "very discouraged" who have left the workforce (labor force).


Labor Force Participation Rate Jan 2012.jpg

Again the LFPR (Labor Force Participation Rate) has fallen dramatically and while the baby-boomers (born 1946 - 1964) are heading into retirement territory, they are not retiring...the fall-off is in younger age groups.

Labor Force Participation Rate.jpg

The marginal or monthly change in the labor force participation or LFPR is an absolute, unmitigated disaster having fallen to 30.1%.  Note: the December numbers reflect an adjustment to the entire year, based on updated population estimates by the Census Bureau. 

The Civilian Noninstitutional Population rose by 1,685,000, but the Civilian Labor Force only expanded by 508,000, resulting in monthly 30.1% Labor Force Participation Rate.  This means that only 30.1% of those added to the Civilian Noninstitutional Population (16 years and older) actually joined the labor force, a total of 1,173,000.  

The marginal (monthly) change in LFPR was 30.1% from Dec 2012 to Jan 2012!!!

Dec 2011-Jan 2012 Employment LFPR.jpg

The Civilian Noninstitutional Population includes people 16 years and older who are not in the military, incarcerated or in other institutions.

Civilian Noninstitutional Population Jan 2012.jpg

Inspite of an increase in the Civilian Noninstitutional Population (7.5 million), the Labor Force only grew by 210,000 since Jan 2009.

Civilian Labor Force Jan 2012.jpg

If the Labor Force had remained at 67% participation rate (Labor Force as a percent of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population), the Labor Force would be 7.9 million higher.

Labor Force Adjusted to 67% LFPR.jpg

We're still well off the Employment levels in January 2009 (564,000) and 4.6 million off the Dec 2007 levels.

Employed Jan 2012.jpg

Unemployed Jan 2012.jpg

Unemployed with Labor Force Participation Rate Adjusted to 67%.jpg

U-3 Unemployment Rate Labor Force Participation Rate Adjusted to 67%.jpg





U-6 Unemployment Rate Labor Force Participation Rate Adjusted to 67%.jpg

The Youngest are Hit the Hardest


The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for the age group 16-24 years of age has fallen significantly from the years, 63.3% in 2002 to 55.0% in 2011.  Of the total in this age group (2011 Civilian Noninstitutional Population ages 16-24) only 45.5% or 17.4 million have found jobs.  Of those not employed (20.8 million out of a total Civilian Noninstitutional Population of 38.2 million), the U.S. Department of Education indicated that 12.1 million have chosen to attend college.  Keep in mind that many of the 12.1 million in school are also working or seeking work.   

16-24 Year olds in College.jpg


U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics



“Enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased by 9 percent between 1989 and 1999.  Between 1999 and 2009, enrollment increased 38 percent, from 14.8 million to 20.4 million. Much of the growth between 1999 and 2009 was in full-time enrollment; the number of full-time students rose 45 percent, while the number of part-time students rose 28 percent. During the same time period, the number of enrolled females rose 40 percent, while the number of enrolled males rose 35 percent. Enrollment increases can be affected by both population growth and rising rates of enrollment. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 26.7 million to 30.4 million, an increase of 14 percent, and the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college rose from 36 percent in 1999 to 41 percent in 2009.”

Enrollment in College 14-24 Year olds.jpg

16-24 year olds Civilian Noninstitutional Population.jpg

Enrollment Percentage 16-24 Year olds of Civlian Noninstitutional Population.jpg


Change LFPR 2008-2011.jpg

Drilling Down in Five Year Increments

Just as disturbing as the fall-off in the 16-24 set are the age group segments through age 59.  These seasoned workers have also experienced a significant drop in their LFPR.

A real shocker is that despite the overall drop in the LFPR, the elderly workers from 50 years and up have experienced an INCREASE IN THEIR LFPR.  This is true even for the age segment 75 years of age and older.  It would appear that Social Security and private pensions and savings have become inadequate to maintain an acceptable life style.  We will address the potential causes for this failure in a soon to be posted newsletter n the website.

What is disturbing about this is that calculation of the unemployment rate ignores a huge cadre of workers that have become DISCOURAGED and stopped looking for work and VERY DISCOURAGED who have been able to retire early or have successfully received permanent disability status.  The numbers of such have risen significantly in the last few years.



November 1, 2011





All Social Security disabled beneficiaries in current-payment status, December 1970–2009

“The number of disabled workers grew steadily until 1978, declined slightly until 1983, started to increase again in 1984, and began to increase more rapidly beginning in 1990.  The growth in the 1980s and 1990s was the result of demographic changes, a recession, and legislative changes.  The number of disabled adult children has grown slightly, and the number of disabled widow(er)s has remained fairly level.  In December 2009, about 7.8 million disabled workers, just under 921,000 disabled adult children, and over 236,000 disabled widow(er)s received disability benefits.”


“A stubborn and severe recession is exacerbating the dismal job outlook and causing accelerated early retirements from the labor force, seeking long term disability status, and an increasing reality of very long duration unemployment.”

Upward Trajectory Social Security Recipents and Disability Claims.jpg

The editors of the newsletter have argued persistently for adjusting the unemployment figures to include these categories of discouraged workers.  When this is done, as we have calculated such adjusted numbers and rates in previous newsletters on this website, the unemployment rates are much higher and more reflective of what is really happening in the economy.

The Labor Force Participation Rate is the relationship between the Civilian Labor Force (those persons employed and unemployed) as a percent of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population (those persons 16 and over not in institutions, e.g., military, prison, etc.).  Again, the Labor Force Participation Rate was 63.7% in January 2012; the last time the rate was less, 63.6%, was December 1981.

Lies, Damned lies, and Statistics

December 5, 2011


Labor force Participation Rate

“The labor force participation rate represents the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population that is in the labor force. This measure of labor force activity grew from about 60 percent nationally in 1970 to about 67 percent in 2000, with much of the increase resulting from increased participation by women.”

Dropping Labor Force Participation Rate.jpg


In summary we’ve been looking into the impact of the Labor Force Participation Rate in a few previous newsletters and this is where we are at:


In 2000 the Annual Labor Force Participation Rate was 67.1%, and while it came down to 66% in 2008, it was fairly stable and actually moving back toward the 67% range in 2006 when it was at 66.2%.  From 2008, when it was at 66.0%, it fell to 64.1% in 2011 (the actual, was 63.96% in December 2011).  Adjusting to the 67% Labor Force Participation Rate of 2000, the unemployed number would go from 12,758,000 to 21,530,230.  The U-3 (official) unemployment rate would go from 8.3% to 13.4%!!!

Adjusting U-3 Unemployment at 67% Labor Force Participation Rate Jan 2012.jpg

It’s clear that the shrinking Labor Force Participation Rate is masking the true measures of unemployment – what we refer to as the ‘very discouraged workers’ – beyond even the discouraged workers, but looking deeper into the numbers, we wanted to see if the lower Labor Force Participation Rate is a permanent situation or if it has more to do with the weakened state of the current economy. 

Digging first into the Civilian Noninstitutional Population, we see the affect that the baby-boomers (born from 1946 through 1964) have had on the population statistics as they have aged, advancing toward the more ‘seasoned’ end of the population continuum.  


Civilian Noninstitutional Population 2008-2011 in 5-year segments.jpg

While the various five year segments (cohorts) have changed from 2008-2011, the overall Civilian Noninstitutional Population has grown by 5.8 million.  Assuming a 66.7% Labor Force Participation Rate (Labor Force (unemployed and employed) as a percent of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population), the Labor Force should have expanded by 3.9 million; instead, the Labor Force fell by nearly 700,000.



While the various five year age segments (cohorts) have changed from 2008-2011, the overall Civilian Noninstitutional Population has grown by 5.8 million in that time.  Assuming a 66.7% Labor Force Participation Rate (Labor Force as a percent of Civilian Noninstitutional Population), the Labor Force should have expanded by 3.9 million; in fact, the Labor Force fell by nearly 700, 000.  The leading edge of the baby-boomers remained strongly represented in the Labor Force, but there's been a fall-off in the rate along the entire 16 - 54 year old range.  At the very youngest of segments, the 16 - 24 year old in particular, the rate fell significantly, with some of the increase related to an increase in college enrollments. 

Moving on to the Civilian Labor Force, we again see the effect that the baby-boomers (born from 1946 through 1964) have had. At first look, it would appear that the problem might be at the very youngest range of the labor force and toward the middle, but those ups and downs in the Civilian Noninstitutional Population and the Civilian Labor Force by themselves fail to paint a clear picture.

Civilian Labor Force 2008-2011 in 5-year segments.jpg


From 2008-2011, the Labor Force fell by nearly 700,000.  The leading edge of the baby-boomers remained strongly represented in the Labor Force, there’s been a fall-off in the 35-50 year range and the 16-19 year old segment.


It’s only when we look at the individual segments that we begin to develop a more accurate idea of what has been going on with Labor Force Participation Rate. 

Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) 2008-2011 in 5-year segments.jpg


Contrary to conventional wisdom, the biggest hit to the Labor Force Participation Rate is from age 16 through 59.  The grouping from 60 and older showed an increase in the participation rate from 2008 to 2011.  Again, the overall Labor Force Participation Rate fell from 66% in 2008, 64.1 in 2011.  Note that in January 2012, the Labor Force Participation Rate fell to 63.7%.


Beyond the distorted and what seems as understated unemployed numbers, the Labor Force Participation Rate reveals even more telling problems moving ahead.  It’s clear that the traditional retirement age of 65 is no more.  Increasingly, older workers are either lingering in the workforce, or finding their way back in to it, whether due to income shortfalls, i.e., pensions and Social Security, desire to continue working, or simply because the workplace has become more conducive/accepting of older workers.  Very soon, we will be delving into the topics of pensions and income.  What has become abundantly clear is that in order to maintain its current lifestyle to support increasing demands on the federal budget from Medicare, Social Security, etc., Americans will have to work longer and the real tale of the tape is in the form of the Labor Force Participation Rate, not the Unemployment Rate.    

...more to follow