In December, April, and now May, the labor force participation rate has been 62.8 percent. That means that 37.2 percent were not participating in the labor force during those months.
Before December, the last time the labor force participation rate sunk as low as 62.8 percent was February 1978, when it was also 62.8 percent. At that time, Jimmy Carter was president.
In April, the number of those not in the labor force hit a record high of 92,018,000. In May, that number declined by 9,000 to 92,009,000. Yet, the participation rate remained the same from April to May at 62.8 percent.
The labor force, according to BLS, is that part of the civilian noninstitutional population that either has a job or has actively sought one in the last four weeks. The civilian noninstitutional population consists of people 16 or older, who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home, or mental hospital.
In May, 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, hit 247,622,000. Of those, 155,613,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.
The 155,613,000 who participated in the labor force equaled only 62.8 percent of the 247,622,000 civilian noninstitutional population, matching (along with the 62.8 percent rate in May) the lowest labor force participation rate in 36 years.
At no time during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, did such a small percentage of the civilian non-institutional population either hold a job or at least actively seek one.
When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the labor force participation rate was 65.7 percent. By the beginning of 2013, the start of Obama’s second term, it had dropped to 63.6 percent. Since January 2014, when the participation rate was 63.0,it has continued to decline, hitting a 36-year low of 62.8 percent in May.
People in the civilian noninstitutional population who did not have a job and did not actively seek one in the last four weeks are considered “not in the labor force.” The number of Americans not in the labor force has climbed by 11,480,000 since Obama took office, rising from 80,529,000 in January 2009 to 92,009,000 in May 2014.