100,450,000: More Than 100 Million Not in Labor Force for 14th Straight Month; No Job, Not Looking

By Susan Jones | November 5, 2021 | 7:19am EDT
A "Now Hiring" sign is seen outside a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
A "Now Hiring" sign is seen outside a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that 100,450,000 people in this country were not in the labor force in October, up 38,000 from the 100,412,000 in September.

This is the 14th straight month that this "not in the labor force" number has remained above 100,000,000.

Persons who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force. This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work.

Among those not in the labor force in October, 1.3 million persons said they were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 1.6 million in September.

The number of people not in the labor force reached a record high of 103,418,000 in April 2020, as the pandemic took hold; and the highest it's been under President Joe Biden is 100,708,000 this past February.

With so many people not in the labor force, the labor force participation rate has remained stubbornly low in recent years, and it did not budge in October.

In October, the civilian non-institutional population in the United States was 261,908,000. That included all people 16 and older who did not live in an institution, such as a prison, nursing home or long-term care facility.

Of that civilian non-institutional population, 161,458,000 were participating in the labor force, meaning they either had a job or were actively seeking one during the last month. This resulted in a labor force participation rate of 61.6 percent in October, the same as September -- and only 0.2 points higher than the 61.4 percent when Biden took office.

The labor force participation rate reached a Trump-era high of 63.4 percent in January 2020, just before the onset of COVID. The labor force participation rate has remained within a narrow range of 61.4 percent to 61.7 percent since June 2020.

The Congressional Budget Office has noted that a lower labor force participation rate is associated with lower gross domestic product and lower tax revenues. It is also associated with larger federal outlays, because people who are not in the labor force are more likely to enroll in federal benefit programs, including Social Security.

BLS said 531,000 jobs were added to nonfarm payrolls in October, which was above analysts' estimates. That compares with the initial disappointing showing of 194,000 jobs added in September. But that 194,000 has been revised upward to 312,000 jobs added in September. BLS also said the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised up by 117,000, from +366,000 to +483,000.  With these revisions, employment in August and September combined is 235,000 higher than previously reported.

According to BLS, job growth was widespread, with notable job gains in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month.

The unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percentage point to 4.6 percent, as the number of employed Americans increased (153,680,000 in September to 154,039,000 in October) and the number of unemployed dropped (7,674,000/September to 7,419,000/October).

This is the lowest unemployment rate since the 4.4 percent recorded in March 2020 under President Donald Trump. The Trump-era low was 3.5 percent.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult men (4.3 percent) declined in October. The jobless rates for adult women (4.4 percent), teenagers (11.9 percent), Whites (4.0 percent), Blacks (7.9 percent), Asians (4.2 percent), and Hispanics (5.9 percent) showed little or no change over the month.

In October, BLS said 11.6 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 13.2 percent in the prior month. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey specifically because of the pandemic.

In October, 3.8 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 5.0 million in September.

In October, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 11 cents to $30.96, following large increases in the prior 6 months. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.9 percent.

The business and economic reporting of CNSNews.com is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.

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