Labor Force Participation Remains at 38-Year Low; 94,513,000 Not in Labor Force; Unemployment Ticks Down to 5.0%

By Susan Jones | November 6, 2015 | 8:58am EST

( - The number of Americans not in the labor force last month totaled 94,513,000 -- a slight improvement from the 94,610,000 not in the labor force in September--but the labor force participation rate nonetheless remained at its lowest point in 38 years, with only 62.4 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says economy added 271,000 jobs in October, well above economists' expectations of 185,000, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.0 percent in October from September's 5.1 percent.


Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told Congress on Wedesday that she sees the U.S. economy "as performing well," although "we have seen some slowdown in the pace of job gains recently."

She indicated that if the Nov. 6 jobs report and other economic data supports the Fed's expectation that the economy will continue to grow, then an interest rate hike in December "would be a live possibility."

The number of Americans not in the labor force, still near the all-time high recorded in September, includes retirees.

In September, 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 251,541,000. Of those, 157,028,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 157,028,000 who participated in the labor force equaled only 62.4 percent of the 251,541,000 civilian noninstitutional population. The last time the labor force participation was as low as 62.4 percent was in October 1977.

Other notes from Friday's jobs report:

-- Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.5 percent), teenagers (15.9 percent), whites (4.4 percent), blacks
(9.2 percent), Asians (3.5 percent), and Hispanics (6.3 percent) showed little or no change in October.

-- The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.1 million in October and has shown little change since
June. These individuals accounted for 26.8 percent of the unemployed in October.

-- The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) edged down by 269,000 to 5.8 million in
October. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

-- In October, 1.9 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 276,000 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 665,000 discouraged workers in October, little changed 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 1.3 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in October had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

-- In October, job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction. Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little or no change over the month.  

-- In October, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 9 cents to $25.20, following little change in September (+1 cent). Hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent over the year. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 9 cents to $21.18 in October.

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