Male labor participation rate in the US hits the lowest level on record

By Sober Look

Friday’s employment figures were terrible across the board, although some have naively interpreted the decline in the headline unemployment rate (from 8.3% to 8.1%) as positive news. Unfortunately there is nothing positive about this change. As before, the decline is simply an indication of people dropping out of the labor force. This is clearly visible in the labor force participation rate (discussed earlier this year), which has now declined to the lowest level in over 3 decades. In fact the only reason that labor participation in the late 70s was lower than today is that women were still in the process of entering the workforce. Labor force participation among men is now at the lowest level on record – going back to 1948. This includes men with a college education.

What’s particularly troubling is the relatively recent sharp drop off in the participation ratio for younger men (between the ages of 20 and 24), which is also at the lowest level on record (chart below).

US labor participation rate ages 20-24 SA (Bloomberg)

Once again, this is a structural issue that can not be remedied with monetary policy.


Sober Look is a no-hype financial markets/macro blog that typically relies on data analysis, primary sources, and original materials. We keep it concise, to the point, with no self-promoting nonsense, and no long-winded opinions. If you are looking for Armageddon predictions or conspiracy theories, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Topics include financial markets, banking, asset management, risk management, derivatives, global economy, policy, and regulation, with the emphasis on finance education. Follow him on his blog or twitter.


  1. david j michel jr says:

    four more years,four more years! and amnesty for all illegals.

  2. johnhaskell says:

    Unemployment can be fixed with monetary policy. But what if I break unemployment up into little demographic pieces? Then it becomes structural and “unfixable.” See?!