Friday, May 06, 2011

US Employment to Population Ratio a Nagging Issue

The latest employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the US employment to population ratio* stood at 58.4% for April 2011, up from 58.1% the previous month, but down slightly from 58.7% a year ago. The US employment to population ratio has been trending downwards since 2000.

Many economists believe that reporting the number employed as a percentage of the civilian population provides a more accurate description of the current state of employment than conjecturing the number of "unemployed" in a population. The US employment to population ratio reached a historical peak of 64.4% on an annual basis in 2000.

*The BLS defines employment and population (civilian noninstitutional) as follows:
Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.... The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Andrew said...

That's an interesting metric I have not heard of before. Most of the decline has been the economy, but it probably won't bounce back completely due to the Boomer population in retirement. I would like to see it split 16 to retirement age (67 now?) and retirement age and older.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Andrew. I also wonder how much undocumented immigrant workers are under-counted as employed but fairly counted for population. This statistic would be more valuable with context.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Andrew. The unemployment rate is useful - such as looking at the number of new files - but the % of the total population employed is probably a better metric. (People "fall off" the unemployment list since it is presumed they are no longer looking for work. Then they are no longer counted in the unemployment rate). Isn't it a better metric to say how much of our population we can actively put to work? But do not look to baby boomers to retire soon. Having lost money in the stock market, the housing bubble, the IT bubble, etc. means there is considerably less than planned for retirement.

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