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Deep Dive: Who’s In And Out Of The Labor Force?

Labor Force Participation Rate Is At A 35-Year Low,
But What Groups Left the Workforce the Fastest?

Americans without Higher Education, Whites and Men
Outpace Others in Giving Up on Job Market

OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 5, 2014 — Ahead of Friday’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Express Employment Professionals, the nation’s largest privately held staffing firm, released a closer look at the nation’s plummeting labor force participation rate (LFPR), breaking it down by education level, race, age and gender.

For years now, the LFPR – the percentage of working age Americans who have jobs or are looking for work – has been falling, but not all groups have fared equally. Some have left the workforce in greater numbers than others, for example, Americans with only some college, whites, men and Americans aged 25–54.

From the first quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter of 2013, LFPR has decreased 2.1 percentage points, from 64.9 percent to 62.8 percent.

Looking at education levels, Americans with college degrees have been slower to leave the job market, with the LFPR for that group declining 1.7 points. In comparison, the LFPR for Americans with only a high school diploma fell much more: 3.7 points while the LFPR for Americans with some college fell 3.4 points.

The LFPR for whites fell more than for African Americans and Hispanics. White LFPR fell from 65.3 percent to 63.1 percent; African American LFPR fell from 62.3 to 60.5; Hispanic LFPR fell from 67.9 to 65.8. The data reveals Hispanics continue to have the highest LFPR among these groups.

LFPR for ages 25–54 fell 1.6 points. For ages 55­64, it fell 1.0 point, and for ages 20–24 it only fell 0.6 points.

Though men have a higher LFPR overall, women have fared slightly better. Women’s LFPR fell from 58.8 percent to 56.9 percent, while men’s LFPR fell from 71.3 percent to 69.2 percent.

In all cases, the number of people looking for work is lower today than it was after the end of the Great Recession. As the economy has recovered, the size of the workforce relative to population has shrunk across all major demographic groups.

“The falling labor force participation should worry us all; no group seems to be immune,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express, and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “The percentage of Americans not in the workforce hasn’t been this low since President Carter was in the White House and President Obama was a teenager.

“With workers young and old getting discouraged and leaving the job market, we should be concerned about our economic future. The unemployment rate has been falling, but part of the reason is people are leaving the workforce. We can’t lose sight of that troubling fact, or we may be lulled into a false sense of economic security.”

Below are the LFPR rates for each group for both Q4 2013 and Q1 2010:

  Q4 2013 Q1 2010
Men: 69.2 71.3
Women: 56.9 58.8
White: 63.1 65.3
Black: 60.5 62.3
Hispanic: 65.8 67.9
Ages 20–24: 70.5 71.1
Ages 25–54: 80.8 82.4
Ages 55–64: 64.0 65.0
High School Diploma (Age 25+): 58.2 61.9
Some College (Age 25+): 65.0 68.4
College Degree (Age 25+): 75.2 76.9




If you would like to arrange for an interview with Bob Funk to discuss this topic, please contact Sherry Kast at (405) 717-5966.


About Robert A. Funk
Robert A. “Bob” Funk is chairman and chief executive officer of Express Employment Professionals. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the international staffing company has 700 franchises in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. Under his leadership, Express has put more than five million people to work worldwide. Funk served as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and was also the Chairman of the Conference of Chairmen of the Federal Reserve.

About Express Employment Professionals
Express Employment Professionals puts people to work. It generated more than $2.5 billion in temporary sales and employed nearly 400,000 people in 2013, and ranks as the largest franchised staffing company and second largest privately held staffing company in the United States. Its long-term goal is to put a million people to work annually.