Record 93,770,000 Americans Not in Labor Force; Participation Rate Matches 38-Year Low

Susan Jones | August 7, 2015 | 9:11am EDT
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Sgt. Garret Baganz, Spc. Tyler Sonsoucie and Spc. Ian Sokol attend an automotive skills class at Fort Hood, Texas in June 2015. They are part of a program sponsored by General Motors that teaches automotive skills and tries to match participants with dealerships around the country. (Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

( - A record 93,770,000 Americans were not in the American labor force last month, and the labor force participation rate remained at 62.6 percent, exactly where it was in June -- a 38-year low, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

In 1975, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping such records, 58,627,000 Americans were not in the labor force, and the number has grown steadily since then, breaking the 80-million mark at the end of George W. Bush's presidency; and the 90-million mark in July 2013, during Barack Obama's second term. The number of Americans not in the labor force has continued to rise since then.

According to the Congressional Budget Office's 2015 long-term outlook, the number of working Americans is expected to increase more slowly in coming decades, as more workers exit the labor force, many of them retiring baby-boomers; and fewer workers enter it -- given declining birth rates and a levelling-off of women in the labor force.

In July, according to BLS, the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population, consisting of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 250,876,000. Of those, 157,106,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 157,106,000 who participated in the labor force equaled only 62.6 percent of the 250,876,000 civilian noninstitutional population -- the same as it was in June. Not since October 1977, when the participation rate dropped to 62.4, has the percentage been this low.

Other notes from Friday's jobs report:

-- The economy added an estimated 215,000 jobs in July, in line with economists' expectations, but not enough to change the nation's civilian unemploymet rate, which remained at 5.3 percent.

-- Among the major demographic groups, the unemployment rate for adult men (4.8 percent), adult women (4.9 percent), whites (4.6 percent), blacks (9.1 percent), Asians (4.0 percent), and Hispanics(6.8 percent) showed little or no change.

-- 6,325,000  million people were employed part time for economic reasons (involuntary part-time workers) in July, 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.

-- The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 2,180,000 in July (up from 2,121,000 in June). These individuals accounted for 26.9 percent of the unemployed.

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