Unemployment Rate Drops, But Fewer People are Working


Newly gainfully employed as I am, I admit to feeling a little warmer and fuzzier about the economy than I did not so long ago. That shiny, new 8.2 percent unemployment rate people are pointing to with a tentative sigh of relief? Yeah, that's me. (Hi, mom!) But even as news stories note a bit of a dark cloud to that silver lining in the form of fewer-than-expected new jobs—even leading their coverage with that datum—there's still more reason to take that dipping unemployment rate with a grain of salt. That's because, even as jobless numbers have dipped, so have the ranks of people who actually have jobs.

The only job I can get is walking around waving this pink slip.

In February 2012, or so says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor participation rate was 63.9 percent. In March, it dropped to 63.8 percent. That's down from 64.2 percent in March of 2011. And, if you're not participating, you don't get counted—whether or not you have a job. So, despite an unemployment rate nominally moving in an encouraging direction, 31,000 fewer people were drawing paychecks last month than the month before.

In fact, the labor participation rate has been consistently spiraling down for several years now, and there really isn't a soft landing for numbers of this sort.

Cruddy labor numbers aren't an Obama-specific problem—the participation rate has been dropping for over a decade, ever since the halcyon days of the dot-com bubble.

But then, we already knew that the lousy economy was a success of bipartisan cooperation. It takes a lot of cross-aisle hand-shaking to drive the national debt from simply disturbing levels to Greek-style over-achievement in the course of a decade. Why wouldn't that sort of talent work equal magic with the labor market?

NEXT: GOP "Social Darwinism" Quantified! Spend 50 Percent More than Clinton, Pennies Less Than Obama!

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  1. You picked a fine time to leave me, Tuccille.

    probably never heard that one – amirite?

    1. Ah, but it’s pronounced “too chilly.”

      You couldn’t have known that, so you get a pass. This time.

      1. That’s cold, JD

        HAH! Bete ewe never herd THAT won!

        1. You’re a funny guy Almanian. That’s why Tucille is going to kill you last.

        2. I believe your pop-culture-fu may be more powerful than mine. I had to Google that.

          1. This board is like the Shaolin Temple of pop-culture-fu.

            1. You may leave this place, Grasshopper, when you can–

              * Walk on rice paper without leaving a trace.
              * Dodge spears.
              * Lift this burning iron cauldron in such a way as to brand your forearms.
              * Wax my car to a perfect sheen.

              1. Oh hell no. I don’t see “make an obscure Aqua Teen reference” or “intelligently bash Star Trek: Voyager” on the list.

                1. I was just talking about Kung-Fu. Leaving here as a master requires a different set of criteria.

                  1. Your failure means you must die in a humiliating but hilarious autoerotic accident.

                    1. Hey, no trashing Carradine.

                    2. Geez Louise, PL. No need to get all choked up over it.

  2. Those slips are really more of a fuchsia.

  3. Only libertards and SPLC-listed hate groups and militias support balanced budgets and none-astronomical debts.

    I recommend the FBI check Reason out for signs of libertard hate group sympathies. All good samaritans have a duty to report such abomination to the Obama administration for… appropriate salvation.

  4. How much of this is just the demographics of baby-boomers aging out of the workforce?

    1. I don’t have the raw stats, but according to Gene Balas at The Street, the over-55 participation rate has increased. The big drop is in workers ages 16-24.

      1. I KNEW it. Damned lazy kids.

        1. Don’t blame the kids. Many people like me have stopped participating in labor to become employed as criminals.

      2. In other words, employers would rather hire Tea Partiers than Occupy Wall Streeters.

        1. It’s probably because they’re racist. Naturally.

      3. Jeez, not only are we talking unemployment, we’re also talking about working parents having to blow more of their income just supporting their kids.

        Unemployment–the real thing, not the government label–should include everyone who is not working who is not (1) retired, (2) below a certain age or in college full-time, and (3) permanently disabled to the point that they can’t work.

        It would be nice if we could work with real numbers once in a while. Another one of those is inflation.

        1. I think you have to include the so-called permanently disabled in the number.

          Because permanently disabled no longer means “quadriplegic”. Thanks to our social security system, it now also means “I’m 50 and my unemployment ran out and I’m depressed” and “I went to jail for a drive-by shooting and I have PTSD from being in jail” and “My back hurts from that time when I pretended to slip in a supermarket and got them to give me 20 grand”.

          1. How screwed up we have gotten.

          2. I have a “friend” who is 42, unemployed and living in a fairly upscale condo that his parents bought. He’s getting disability + free healthcare for “anxiety” and/or “I’m nearly Asperger’s” or whatever the hell it was.

            Funny, he used to manage a retail store and has done several other jobs in the past. Now? Meh.

            1. I’m telling you, the Peter/Paul system is govt is tilting toward majority-Paul.

              1. Disabled people are desperate people. We will never have anything close to full employment again because the machines do the work. Teachers and cops shouldn’t be the only ones riding the gravy train.

          3. +1 Fluffy. I know one woman who had a boatload of federally insured student loans discharged based on “disability,” which was alleged PTSD following childbirth. Not quite the same thing as drawing social security, but another example of the way in which the government has incentivized people to claim ever more of these unprovable, “I have it because I say so” types of maladies. Amazingly, we had an entire generation of WWII veterans come back from pure hell and manage to function as working citizens. Our present generation of patsies, on the other hand, is only too happy to avail itself of any opportunity to suckle at the government teet.

            1. There are not enough jobs for the “patsies”. I would rather see them on wellfare than working for the government.

        2. Stay at home parents should probably also be excluded, no?

          1. No. They should be counted, but that should just be understood. Coming up with all of these exclusions gets us into trouble.

    2. It doesn’t really matter what the explanation is, 21000 fewer people making money this month over last is terrible.

      1. It’s not like they’re not getting money. The only difference is that we’re the ones making it. (well, us and helicopter Ben, but I didn’t mean making in quite so literal a sense).

    3. How much of this is just the demographics of baby-boomers aging out of the workforce?

      There’s reaching retirement age, and there’s being able to afford retirement.

      I think a lot of baby boomers never quite realized these are different things.

      That said, the number of actual retirees is a relevant number. Typically it has been less than the number of people aging into the workforce.

      There’s a rule of thumb out there on what the difference is (the “birth-death model”, I believe its called). I don’t recall the number, but I’m pretty sure its north of 200,000/month. Meaning we need to add 200,000 jobs/month, or we are losing ground.

      1. ^^A good point to reminded of. Also, depending on what one considers to be ‘normal’ employment, the US needs to create something like 264,000 jobs per month over the next 6 years to get back to employment levels seen way way back in Dec 2007…at least according to zerohedge. [link]

  5. But then, we already new that the lousy economy


  6. I don’t no how long you are going to remain gainfully employed.

    1. By correctly acknowledging a 10-yr debt and job death spiral?

      Yeah, I can see your point. Deficits only began to matter Jan 21, 2009.

      1. They matter to Obama?

        1. Only if it means he can raise taxes. Not so much when it comes to cutting spending.

      2. whoooooooosh!

        1. Shrike’s sense of humor is as sharp as his intellect.

          1. Sacks of wet mice cut deeper.

      3. Just like wars, indefinite detention and drone strikes stopped mattering. Get back in your hole you demented little retard.

        1. That’s not fair, John. We have no idea whether or not shrike is a below-average-sized individual.

          1. True. But you can’t help but see him as a Gollum like figure; little nasty and hostile. He found Woodrow Wilson’s wedding ring in a stream when he was young and has been getting more repulsive every year since.

          2. Would being a mental midget count?

  7. we already new

    I’ve been the resident proofreader in every job I ever had. Would you like one?

    1. Know, hour knew werkur Will bee just fein in his’ hone.

      1. Don’t fuck with the proofreader, dude. He’ll seriously rip your shit up and fuck your daughter while he’s at it, too.

        Badasses are like that.

        1. Widows and orphans, dude. Split infinitives. Horizontal alignment.
          I’d say more, but most people can’t handle living close to their fears.

    2. I’ve been the resident proofreader in every job I have ever had. Would you like one?

  8. Wait, is this Jerome Tucille’s progeny? Because as my nom de H&R might indicate, we’re gonna have us some problems.

  9. Thanks for the proofreading, folks! Screw-up duly noted and fixed.

    1. We do it out of love, JD

      1. False, we do it to feel superior to others.

        1. There’s a difference?

    2. That’s why it took you so long to get a job.

  10. PS Thanks for coming out to play, JDT! You’ll soon be in the “We Love Lucy” category if you keep this up.

    1. Really, all we need is a little bit of attention from time to time. We’re like puppies.

    2. Just watch your Twitters about us. We are vengeful and have looooong memories.

  11. OT. Just found and put in links thread, but realized it’s almost noon.

    Remember that CA Iraqi hate crime?

    An Iraqi-American woman who was beaten to death in her home was having family issues and planning a divorce, but her brother said he has not drawn any conclusions about the identity of the killer.

    From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/art…..z1rH8wXck5

    Seems relevant to a recent article here on Reason.

    1. her brother said he has not drawn any conclusions about the identity of the killer.

      She’s just a woman, after all. You wouldn’t want to rush in to suspecting her Allah-appointed lord and master just because he is far and away the most likely person to have beat her brains in.

      1. Her daughter jumped out of a car in a suicide attempt because so she wouldn’t have to marry her cousin.

        1. Sorry. Was still fixated on the idiocy of everyone standing around scratching their head about who the mysterious anti-Islamist bigot in CA could be.

          1. Remember RC, there is a narrative here. When Fundie Islamists step on US soil, instant moderate. Any disagreement with this, clearly there is Anti-Islam hatred and bigotry.

            Reminds me somewhat of another case buzzing about the ears lately.

    2. Looks like you Sugar Freed the link.

  12. Just when you think the UK can’t get any more stupid or evil, they prove you wrong.

    Avril Mulcahy, 83, was told to address the “green travelling issues” over her journeys from her home in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, to the West Road Surgery. The surgery wrote to Mrs Mulcahy, telling her to register with a new GP within 28 days.

    The letter said: “Our greatest concern is for your health and convenience but also taking into consideration green travelling issues. Re: Carbon footprints and winter weather conditions, we feel it would be advisable for patients to register at surgeries nearer to where they live.

    “We would be very grateful if you could make the necessary arrangements to re-register at another practice.”


    1. Darmok & Jalad at Tanagra?

      (that’s how much sense the wording of that made to me)

    2. That is so fucked.

      1. “Our greatest concern is for your health and convenience but also taking into consideration green travelling issues.”

        And you folks wonder why I’m UKR bound. Enjoy your NHS system in 10 years.

        Personally, I predict 5 years. And my predictions WRT to this shitty law have yet hit a goose egg.

        Note what’s missing here: What if she didn’t want that particular physician, regardless of her reason? Clearly, given her age, an IPAB must order her PX pills in lieu of other TX.

        Moreover, where is Tony to defend this?

        1. I don’t think we’ll get to NHS-style socialized medicine. Simply because the money will run out before we do.

    3. Death Panels aren’t always a small group of bureacrats deciding who gets the cancer treatment and who doesn’t get an IV this week. Sometimes they are just a lovely green mix of bureacracy and the latest PC fad.

      So she goes to find another GP nearer to her but those have longer waiting times or are not taking new patients (I don’t know if that’s how the limey system works, but hypothetically). So she doesn’t get her new prescription or the regular test, since she can’t get a new doc. Or when she gets the new doc, the records never get transferred. What’s important is that she’s now in the wilderness and not costing National Health anything for awhile – maybe off the books for good bwa-ha-ha.

    4. Yet more proof that the liberal obsession with universal health care springs not from humanitarian impulses, but from their insatiable desire for control. “We’re paying for your health care” is the best excuse even invented for centralizing virtually all decisions with the state. That’s why they love it, and for no other reason.

    5. Re: John,

      “Our greatest concern is for your health and convenience but also taking into consideration green travelling issues. Re: Carbon footprints and winter weather conditions, we feel it would be advisable for patients to register at surgeries nearer to where they live.

      Translation: “Stop driving around so much looking for a better doctor, you skank! Visit the one we assigned to you and take it like a good little serf!”

      1. Thanks for translating, OM, because I seriously can’t understand limeyspeak anymore.

        1. OM forgot to mention:

          “We would be very grateful if you could make the necessary arrangements to re-register at another practice.”

          Translation: “Be grateful we still allow you access to a Primary Care Physician.”

  13. I wonder what the labor participation rates were during boom years. Or, you know, most of our 200+ year history.

    I’d say by most measures, a successful economy is one in which one income is enough to support a household.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, but there’s very little context to call what is happening with this statistic “cruddy.”

    And if people are learning to get by on less, is that so bad? I mean, yeah, it’s bad for the economy since we are a consumption-based economy, but is it actually bad for people?

    1. is it actually bad for people

      Ah, the old “funemployment” meme. Which died a quick death. Or is this the old “you fat Americans in your SUVs and McMansions” meme?

      I’m guessing that most people who involuntarily reduce their spending aren’t very happy about it.

      There’s no reason to believe that the reduction in the participation rate is anything but involuntary. I am sure that there are millions of people out there who want jobs that can’t find them. To me, that’s bad.

  14. Scary fact from the BLS:

    Over the last year, we have added one job for every ten new residents of the US. Population has gone up 13 million; workforce has gone up 1.3 million.

  15. Yeah, I see this article just so happened to be written when my unemployment ran out. I had been working for the same employer for 12 years. And now still to this day, I get rejection, after rejection letter saying We appreciate you taking the time to apply for ……. At this time we want to inform you that you have not been selected for this position. Wow, and I went to college and got a degree for what????? And I tell my children that college is so important why. My kids so me struggling and I have a couple of degree’s,,

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