Sunday, August 30, 2009


Just a few charts to discern what happens to employment during a recession. Really more of a vocabulary post.

So this is the the percentage of the adult civilian population (> than 16 years old) that could be employed. It is divided into three subsections: employed, unemployed and not in the labor force. The not in labor force are generally retirees and students. Now the percentages look different than what you may hear described on tv or in print. This is because they are again percentages of the total employable universe. The unemployment rate measures only the unemployed versus the labor force. This is shown below.

So here you can see the 9.4% unemployment figure that economist describe.

So the largest category is Civilians over the age of 16 and it is right now approximately 235.9 million people. It is made up of the labor force and the aptly titled Not in Labor force, which stand at 154.5 and 81.4 million people respectively. 9.4% of the labor force is unemployed currently and that represents 14.5 million people.

I wanted to look at the chart again. There are some interesting nuances going on in the data. One is that the not in labor force number is growing both in percentage terms and nominal terms as the population has increased. This most likely stems from the baby boomer generation entering their retirement years. This is why the employment as a percentage of adults has fallen below 60%.This is the first time it has been this low since 1984.

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