Record 56,131,000 Women Not in Labor Force; Women's Labor Force Participation Matches 27-Year Low

By Ali Meyer | April 3, 2015 | 9:28am EDT

(AP File Photo)

( - A record 56,131,000 women, age 16 years and over, were not in the labor force in March, as the labor force participation rate for this group dropped to 56.6 percent -- a 27-year low, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

To be counted as "not in the labor force," according to the BLS, one must not have a job or have looked for one in the past four weeks. In February 2015, there were 56,023,000 women not in the labor force, which means that 108,000 women have dropped out of the labor force since then.

The labor force participation rate, which is the percentage of those who are participating in the labor force by either having a job or looking for one in the past four weeks, declined in March to 56.6 percent, compared with 5.7 percent in February.

According to the BLS, the 56.6 percent of women participating in the labor force in March matches the percentage seen in December of 2014. The labor force participation rate has not been this low since September 1988--27 years ago.

The BLS labor force numbers begin with the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population, which consists of all people 16 years or older who were not in the military or an institution. For women, that number was 129,342,000. Of that group, there were 73,211,000 women in the labor force, meaning they participated by either having a job or looking for one. This brings the participation rate for women to 56.6 percent.

Of the 73,211,000 women participating in the labor force, 69,317,000 had a job in March, and 3,894,000 did not. Those 3,894,000 are counted as the "unemployed."

The 3,894,000 job seekers were 5.3 percent of the 73,211,000 women actively participating in the labor force, bringing the March unemployment rate for women to 5.3 percent.

In February, the unemployment rate for women was 5.4 percent.

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