Labor Force Participation Improves Slightly; 94,103,000 Americans Not in Labor Force

By Susan Jones | January 8, 2016 | 6:25 AM EST

(AP File Photo)

( - The number of Americans not in the labor force last month totaled 94,103,000 -- a slight improvement from the 94,446,000 not in the labor force in November--and the labor force participation rate increased a tenth of a point, with 62.6 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population either holding a job or actively seeking one.

For all of 2015, the highest labor participation rate was 62.9 percent in January: the lowest was 62.4 percent in September, and that 62.4 percent was the lowest in 38 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the economy added 292,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent -- for the third month in a row.

In December, 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 251,936,000. Of those, 157,833,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 157,833,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 62.6 percent of the 251,936,000 civilian noninstitutional population.


Ahead of this month's unemployment numbers, the Labor Department released an article examining why people who are not in the labor force are not working.

It found that in 2014, 87.4 million people 16 years and older neither worked nor looked for work at any time during that year.

Of this group, 38.5 million people reported retirement as the main reason for not working. About 16.3 million people were ill or had a disability, and 16.0 million were attending school. Another 13.5 million people cited home responsibilities as the main reason for not working in 2014, and 3.1 million individuals gave “other reasons.”  

The self-reported reasons that people gave for not being in the labor force varied by age and gender, and the analysis includes charts comparing the reasons given by various worker groups in both 2004 and 2014.

Other notes from the December jobs report:

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for blacks declined to 8.3 percent in December, while the rates for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.4 percent), teenagers (16.1 percent), whites (4.5 percent), Asians (4.0 percent), and Hispanics (6.3 percent) showed little or no change.

-- The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.1 million in December and accounted for 26.3 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has shown little movement since June, but was down by 687,000 over the year.

-- The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 6.0 million in December but was down by 764,000 over the year. 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 December, 1.8 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 427,000 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 663,000 discouraged workers in December, littlechanged 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 1.2 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

Also See:
Growing Number of Men, Ages 25-54, Say 'Home Responsibilities' Keep Them Out of the Workforce
BLS: Less Educated People More Likely to Claim Illness or Disability As Reason for Not Working