Guess the Only State Where Less Than Half the People Work



What state has the lowest labor participation rate? It's West Virginia, where only 49.8 percent of people age 16 and up are actually working. The labor participation rate is the "the percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 and over working or looking for work." It includes people who have given up looking for jobs and are thus not captured in the most widely followed measure of unemployment and it also includes civilians who are disabled. Nationally, the labor participation rate in December (the most recent figure) was 62.7 percent. The highest rate is in North Dakota, where the fracking and shale oil boom has pushed the number to 69.5 percent.

As Marketwatch notes, West Virginia's unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, with 14 states having worse outcomes on that score. Part of the problem is that West Virginia's population is older, which correlates with lower labor participation rates. 

Overall, the labor participation rate in the United States has been tanking since 2000. So while the financial crisis plays a big role, especially among older workers who took buyouts and retired, it's not the whole story. Neither is the general aging of the population, which tends to lower the participation rate.

Boston Globe

Indeed, the real issue is the very long-term participation rate of men, which has been on the downslope for generations now.

Which brings us back to West Virginia. It not only has the lowest labor participation rate, it has the highest disability rate in the country: 17.6 percent. Disability claims skyrocketed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, not because more people were suddenly injured but because such a program represented a way to get money as unemployment and other benefits ran out.

And over the long haul, it's become easier and easier to claim disability and effectively opt out of the work force (other well-meaing programs add to the trend too). For many people, work is effectively optional if they can scratch together a bare minimum of revenue from other sources. As the grandson of an Irish immigrant who quit working as soon as he could live off his wife's and children's earnings, I can recognize that impulse as a dark mirror of the American Dream.

If disability requirements were tightened up, there's no doubt that many people not working now would start looking for work.

Read where your state ranks in labor participation rate here.

NEXT: Andrew Napolitano on France's Free Speech Hypocrisy

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  1. Sounds like America needs to bring up its participACTION!


  2. West Virginia’s population is older, which correlates with lower labor participation rates.

    I thought that LPR didn’t count people of retirement age.

    1. I don’t think the statement (“population is older, which correlates with lower labor participation rates”) necessarily means they are counting retirement age people in the LPR.

      That said I would like to see the source for the alleged correlation. A quick check of demographic data suggests there are 2 states – Vermont and Maine – with older median aged population; Maine has a 60.8% LPR and Vermont is 65.3%! Just below WV in median age is New Hampshire, and they have a 66.1% LPR, and then comes Florida which is at 57%. In other words, WV’s LPR is 10% below the average LPR of the 5 oldest states.

      Mississippi, the next-lowest LPR on this chart, is tied for the 10th-YOUNGEST population.

      I don’t think WV’s aging population is very much a part of the problem at all.


  3. Yep, disability is the new scam. And the current government loves it–long term welfare that buys votes. Mmm, mmm, good!

    1. Hmm. How about “Too disabled to work = too disabled to leave the house”?

      1. I have a friend who is a PI and he specializes in workman’s comp claims. Insurance companies hire him to take pics of people (who are so gimped up that they can’t even come to work and answer a phone) working on roofs, putting up retaining walls, etc.

        His pet peeve is that in almost every instance once the person is proven to be lying the only action is to stop paying their comp claims. It is very rare for anyone to prosecute the liar for fraud.

        I agree though, we should put a bounty out for proof that people are lying about their disability. If you can proove someone is lying you get their next 3 months of disability payments.

        1. It says a lot about the current state of things that people are rarely prosecuted for fraud or perjury when caught. Even when that fraud and perjury resulted in the defrauder getting many thousands of tax dollars he should never have gotten. This includes some corporate subsidies as well as individual welfare fraud.

          1. I’ll bet you drove on a road at some point in the past year? Well, then, you have no right to complain about taxes or where that money is spent.


          2. Too busy fighting the drug war?

        2. The entire worker’s comp system is buggered up beyond all belief. Back in my attorney days I rep’d a construction contractor defending against a claim.

          Had a hearing. Won. Sleazy plaintiff appealed. Had another. At the same place. Won. Then another appeal. Same drill. Won. Plaintiff attorney rings me up and tries for a settlement – otherwise he is going to appeal again. I threatened to sue him personally and he went away.

          It was the only WC case I ever handled so maybe there was something odd with this in particular. I never quite understood why there seemed to be an unlimited right of appeal. And I suspect that there was NOT something unusual about that particular case.

      2. I prefer the waitress test. If you are too disabled to work as a waitress you can have disability. If you are that bad off it is completely possible that there isn’t currently a menial labor job open that you can do (doesn’t mean that’s a forever positions, just means long enough for you to starve).

        Though a two tiered system would be better. To crippled to be a waitress, you have x years of disability to get training/education for something that won’t be hindered by your disability. To crippled to leave the house without assistance, yeah you can stay on disability for life.

        1. A family friend is a very low functioning schizophrenic whose had countless institutionalizations, including several months in the state mental hospital-prison. If his meds suddenly don’t work (for whatever reason; they need to be recalibrated every so often), there’s a high likelihood he’ll suffer a psychotic break and be committed for a few days. His meds — while making him usually not psychotic — make him a complete space case normally. Needless to say, he can’t hold a job and the $900 or so he receives monthly is all he has to live on.

          My father-in-law is convinced our friend is just “lazy” and doesn’t want to work, just so he can make just enough to live in a crappy apartment in the ghetto and get fed from soup kitchens. It seriously annoys the f**k out of me and it’s because people do abuse the system; those assholes should be thrown in jail.

        2. Waiting tables is pretty far from the least labor intensive job out there. You’re on your feet a lot, for long periods at a time.

          1. It’s more about availability. There are always waitress and fry cook jobs. If you can’t do those, the available low skill jobs go down by a significant chunk.

            1. Low skill is irrelevant. Almost any office job can be done at home these days without “retiring” or faking a disability.

          2. Also, a tray with five or six main courses on it can be damned heavy.

        3. Waitress test? Waiting tables requires physical work, and the ability to stand, walk and carry stuff.

          Go with the call center test. Can you answer a phone and read a script? No disability for you.

    2. In all fairness you have a lot of black lung cases in WV among former coal miners.

    3. The “free shit” lefties are freaking out big time because SSDI is on the verge of running out of money, and the republicans in congress have said they’re not bailing it out, except as part of a comprehensive Social Security reform package.

    4. This is how you have people on the dole but don’t count them as unemployed. Same government dependency, but not a political liability.

    5. Probably 90%+ of disability claims are bullshit.

  4. Should be the state of despair.

    1. West Cesspool

  5. There’s a difference between “working” and “participating in the labor force”. D.C., for example, I’m sure has a very high labor force participation rate but very few people actually work.

    1. Stop mocking our work-free drugplace.

    2. “Working hard, or hardly working?”

  6. You would think with all the retired population FL would be at the top of that list…and in other news Michigan has a semi.

  7. Underground economy. Pot, ginsing, mushrooms, moonshine. Working under the table. Tax free economy.

    1. ^^^Bingo^^^.

      I was just thinking about the fact that I’ve had periods of unemployment where I still managed to keep a steady flow of cash coming into the house – the key word there being “cash”. No checks, no paperwork.

      Relatedly, try finding the figures on the number of people who run sideline businesses out of their homes these days – sideline businesses that continue to operate year after year despite generating remarkable tax losses every single year.

      1. I don’t know this for sure, but every time the tax loss issue comes up McArdle says that it’s a red flag for audits & isn’t as prominent as you’d think.

  8. Vermont is above the national average. I don’t get that state.

    Meanwhile, California is below.

    1. Might be due to certain demographic factors that are not suitable for polite discussion.

      1. Wait – the Lizard People are there?! Is that what you’re sayimg?

        1. No, the Lizard people are in MA, but it takes a hell of a lot of work to keep them there.

      2. Polite?


      3. You mean French vs. Scots-Irish? Because WV and VT are practically identical as far as other racial demographics are concerned.

    2. Because all the college educated kids are leaving the state, which leaves all the (crappier) jobs for the people left behind.

    3. While the good old fashioned protestant work ethic is on the decline, I think it still is a big part of New England culture. In some places, at least.

  9. If Block Yomomma and his slimeball lefty JournoList supporters would quit trying to kill off the coal industry, I bet the situation in West Virginia wouldn’t be so dire.

    1. But think of all the solar industry jobs “created or saved”!

    2. It’s a moot point at the moment. Coal just isn’t cost effective compared to natural gas.

  10. Well, those of us toiling for the Swiss can hear the hortator reaching for his drum sticks, as we will be asked to row harder as the Swiss franc goes to the Moon.

    So, maybe I will be working enough to count for two?

    1. Yeah. I pity the Swiss with actual savings in national banks. That negative interest rate’s gotta hurt.

      Imagine paying your bank to keep your money.

      Buy real estate, wait – no? Buy gold, wait – no?

      Best just store your cash under your mattress.

      1. Buy real estate, wait – no? Buy gold, wait – no?

        Don’t forget Bitcoin, wait – no.

  11. The number of people pretending to work keeps going down.

    1. While it will suck to be alive during the ramp up to the inevitable collapse, I hold out hope that those who survive and rebuild will have a few thousand good years before the next reset.

  12. my best friend’s mom makes $76 /hr on the internet . She has been without a job for 9 months but last month her paycheck was $16819 just working on the internet for a few hours. visit their website…..
    ????? http://www.netpay20.com

    1. Your best friend’s mom is lying to you, bot. At 76 bucks an hour she worked 221 hours last month to get that $16819. And that’s gross, not net. I’m assuming she didn’t pay any taxes because her time on the internet was arranging trysts.

      1. Oh darn, the “my best friends (insert name of relative here) made a gazillion dollars working on the laptop and bought a brand new hoopty” post got deleted. Sorry, eyeroller! I’m sure your mom is a pillar of the community.

    1. Commie Pope loves censorship. This comes as a shock to me.

    2. Remember what Jesus said: If a man insults your mother, SLUG HIM.

    3. I’d rather hear him give a more absolute defense of free speech and make it clear that the reaction is evil while the free expression is not. But it doesn’t seem like he is calling for censorship (maybe self-censorship).

      To say that a reaction is to be expected is not, by itself, terribly controversial. Charlie Hebdo had hired extra security (though clearly not enough). That would seem to indicate that a reaction was, indeed, expected. It is absolutely terrible that that is the case, but it does seem to be a fact.

    4. “You cannot insult the faith of others.”

      I’m glad I don’t listen to this guy. Because that is just… wrong on every level.

  13. Good news for WV? They’re the number one exporter of Meth.

    They’re number 1!!
    They’re number 1!!

  14. All these people without jobs, and you won’t even hire an alt-text intern.

  15. If disability requirements were tightened up, there’s no doubt that many people not working now would start looking for work.

    No doubt. But there’s no reason to believe they would actually find work. More likely the labor participation rate would remain unchanged and wages would be depressed. Not that that would be a bad thing. Indeed it would be a first baby step towards getting the economy back on track.

    The real heavy lifting would be things like raising the fed funds rate, balancing the budget, and repealing Sarbanes?Oxley. None of which is does there appear to be any possibility of.


    1. Labor participation rate includes unemployed people looking for work.

  16. Work is not inherently good. It’s a necessary evil. Also, talking about disability fraud is beside the point. Disability insurance is socialism, and therefore evil. If you are too disabled to work, you need to just fuck off and starve.

    1. I’m willing to chip in for the legit disabled.

    2. Work is not inherently good. It’s a necessary evil.

      Wow, Tony actually said something reasonable! Must have been a mistake.

      If you are too disabled to work, you need to just fuck off and starve.

      I’m perfectly OK with disabled people fucking off and dying. I’m also perfectly OK with everyone else being OK with me fucking off and dying if I become disabled. I’m thus not OK with money being forcibly taken from anyone to support anyone else.

    3. How can insurance be socialism? Socialized by government law, maybe, but socialist?

      Also thanks for sharing your views about the disabled. If I ever find a good private charity that helps disabled people I’ll be sure to know who NOT to call

    4. Considering probably 90%+ of disability claimants are frauds you’re not far off. If you claim to have Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia you need to kill yourself.

  17. If you’ve spent much time in WV this wouldn’t be a surprise. The hillbilly stereotype is alive and well. They (many of them) really are like the lazy characters on Hee Haw. And, they’re proud of it.

  18. * The physical demands of work are at an all time low.
    * The accommodations for people with impairments are at an all-time high.
    * Medical care is constantly improving.
    In a rational world, all of these things would add up to a disability rate that is at a record low, and falling further. I have been asked to sign a disability form with the reason being hemorrhoids. My natural impulse is to help people, but there was no way I would sign it. I am sure he found another doctor who would. Our system had degenerated to the point where work is basically optional. This is the road to ruin.

    1. You should checkout Dalrymple if you haven’t already.

  19. my classmate’s sister-in-law makes $82 every hour on the computer . She has been without work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $15360 just working on the computer for a few hours. read the article………..
    ????? http://www.cashbuzz80.com

  20. Well, yeah, they’d start looking for work. Doesn’t mean they’d actually find work, however.

  21. Hell yeah not having to work is the American dream. It’s the spongeing off of others to achieve it part that’s problematic.

    I wonder if getting rid off property taxes and a few other reforms might be a winning formula at the pols for those of us who just want to lay around the shack?

    1. I should say its *part* of the American dream. Certainly a pursuit of happiness for many. If work is your bag so be it, whatever yanks your crank.

  22. You’re insane. Disability is extremely hard to get, to the point that many people who actually are disabled can’t get it. You provide no evidence whatsoever that it is too easy to get disability, or that the number of people on disability is too high.

    1. Actually, the evidence of massive abuse of the disability system is overwhelming. It’s a mixture of outright fraud and political toleration.

    2. “Disability is extremely hard to get, to the point that many people who actually are disabled can’t get it.”

      Around 1/3rd of claimants get awarded Disabled status every year. So no, it’s not extremely hard to get.


  23. You failed to mention the war on coal, a major contributing factor.

    1. Absolutely! The anger should be directed toward the government for destroying the coal industry (and for giving out handouts too!). But I guess it’s more fun to pick on the lazy hillbillies on disability.

  24. Red States, Low Taxes, Almost 1/2 Jobless = West Virginia. While Blue States Higher Taxes, Higher employment rates, less divorce, less single teen moms, less welfare/food stamp recipients, etc.= Redistribution of Wealth, Socialism for the states with the most anti-socialism, conservative Christians. Red States = Socialist states, bringing the rest of the country down !!!

    Get Educated:

    Ayn Rand Worshippers Should Face Facts: Blue States Are the Providers,Red States Are the Parasites: http://tinyurl.com/ljsfj7p

    Right-wing coup: Deluded secessionists have already won. Conservative secessionists want their own country? Their agenda already rules, even though a majority opposes it. By David Sirota: http://tinyurl.com/lxv7q5c

    1. Ayn Rand Worshippers Should Face Facts: Blue States Are the Providers,Red States Are the Parasites

      First of all, I don’t see what Blue States vs Red States has to do with Ayn Rand or libertarianism. Libertarians consider conservatives and progressives as just about equally corrupt.

      Second, those statistics are incomplete, dubious, and outdated.

      Third, even if the statistics were true, your interpretation of them as Red States being “parasites” is wrong. Those payments are forced onto states by the federal government, whether they want it or not; they are often for programs the recipients don’t want.

      1. Your suggestion that there’s a dime of difference between the two well-financed parties is ridiculous
        The difference is in the crumbs they receive as actors in a stage-managed political theater. The only effective representation in DC is in the guise of 30 thousand K Street lobbyists who could care less about a (D) or an (R) on the door of the person being offered the carrot or the stick. The planted idea that voters have a choice counts on party hacks like you who can’t see that party, faction, ideology and so on are quite secondary to what stands as the enduring divide between those who want to control other people and those who have no such desire. The ruling elite needed a (D) in the White House because that’s always beneficial when they need cover — that quaint “We’re here to help the little guy” propaganda. Propaganda when they had to wait out Teddy Roosevelt before placing the Federal Reserve Act under Wilson’s nose, or when Slick Willie was convinced to sign off on the repeal of Glass-Steagall, allowing commercial banks to act like hedge funds, and also with a rider waiving regulation of the derivatives market. Beneficial to have a current administration that assumed trillions in private losses in exchange for new public debt bringing happy days again to Wall Street. That maneuver in high finances and high places left an audit trail where in the five years

      2. Oops – … where in the five years after the Wall Street meltdown, the 1% increased their share of national wealth from 38% to 43%. Understandably, Wall Street and Silicon Valley really like he Democrats.

    2. Detroit.

      Your turn.

    3. So cpmondello@gmail.com, are you are in favor of removing the Progressive nature of the US Income tax, then?

  25. Red State Socialism and the Politics of Stimulus: http://tinyurl.com/mskc3tk

    The Most Hypocritical States are Usually “Red”: http://tinyurl.com/pwcmxxb

  26. Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years, by Thom Hartmann, January 26, 2009: http://tinyurl.com/bs4p4g

    The Two Santa Claus Theory, by David Dayen, Apr 30, 2009: http://tinyurl.com/kg3n2br

    1. Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years,

      The response to being conned by Republicans is not to go back to being conned by Democrats and progressives again, it is to send both groups to hell where they belong.

  27. Places like West Virginia have unique problems that distort statistic like this. West Virginia was also ranked as the place with the least educated people. Well what does a graduate of the University of West Virginia with a STEM degree do other than leave the state?

    I was once in Arkansas and drove through some of the backwoods roads to get to the Interstate. There were abandoned shacks along these country roads – probably because the kids got some kind of education and training and decided working on the old family farm wasn’t worth it and it certainly wasn’t worth paying the property taxes to keep the land in the family while they were in Texas or elsewhere.

    1. Perhaps they should also do a lpr based on birthplace. Slightly diff picture we would see

  28. Unsurprising. West Virginians are retards.

  29. my co-worker’s mom makes $75 every hour on the laptop . She has been fired from work for ten months but last month her paycheck was $13904 just working on the laptop for a few hours. use this link………..
    ????? http://www.netcash50.com

  30. The thing with WV is you have a very old population. Almost no industry as it is far removed from every artery of commerce. And on top of that the plaintiff attorney bar there is exceptionally influential and usually runs the entire justice system. So no jobs to begin with plus claim disability/workers comp/personal injury loss as the main industry.

    Also it is a very small state and it is difficult as a civil defendant to deal with the fact that any jury you get is going to be packed with people wanting to play the lawsuit lottery themselves.

    98% of cases settle, of course, but the fact that everyone knows juries are bonkers there will cause insurance adjustors to significantly ADJUST their settlement amounts upward.

  31. Almost heaven, west virginia
    Blue ridge mountains
    Shenandoah river –
    Life is old there
    Older than the trees
    Younger than the mountains
    Growin’ like a breeze

    Country roads, take me home
    To the place i belong
    West virginia, mountain momma
    Take me home, country roads

    All my memories gathered round her
    Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
    Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
    Misty taste of moonshine
    Teardrops in my eye

    Country roads, take me home
    To the place i belong
    West virginia, mountain momma
    Take me home, country roads

    I hear her voice
    In the mornin’ hour she calls me
    The radio reminds me of my home far away
    And drivin’ down the road i get a feelin’
    That i should have been home yesterday, yesterday

    Country roads, take me home
    To the place i belong
    West virginia, mountain momma
    Take me home, country roads

    Country roads, take me home
    To the place i belong
    West virginia, mountain momma
    Take me home, country roads
    Take me home, now country roads
    Take me home, now country roads

  32. my roomate’s sister-in-law makes $61 hourly on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $13483 just working on the laptop for a few hours. you can check here…………
    ????? http://www.jobs-sites.com

  33. Piles or hemorrhoids are swellings containing dilated blood vessels. The blood vessels are exposed hemorrhoids are inside or around the buttocks, both in the rectum or anus and you can visit http://www.hemorrhoidnomorereview.org . Most hemorrhoids is a mild disease and not even cause symptoms. If only the symptoms of hemorrhoids, usually common are:

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