A record 92,898,000 Americans 16 years and older did not participate in the labor force last month, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The BLS defines people not in the work force as people 16 years and up who are not employed and haven’t “made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.” The labor force participation rate — or the “The labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population” — also dipped back down to 62.7 percent, from 62.9 percent in November.
September also saw a labor force participation rate of 62.7 percent, however prior to then, the last time the rate hit 62.7 percent was in February of 1978.
While the level of labor force participation declined — due not only to potentially discouraged workers but also baby boomers hitting retirement age — the BLS reported Friday that in December the unemployment rate declined to 5.6 percent and payroll jobs increased by 252,000.
“Today’s solid employment report caps off a strong year for the U.S. labor market, which achieved a number of important milestones in 2014,” Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement. “Total job growth last year was the strongest since 1999, while the unemployment rate fell at the fastest pace in three decades.”
“Although nominal wages fell in December, inflation-adjusted wages have generally been rising, and job growth has picked up in sectors that traditionally provide good, middle-class jobs,” he added.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reacted to the labor news by touting the jobs bills the new Republican Congress have been pushing, including the Keystone pipeline.
“It’s always welcome news when more Americans find work,” he said. “Yet while the economy is showing some signs of improvement, far too many middle-class families are struggling to bridge the gap between rising costs and stubbornly flat paychecks.”