95 million Americans not in the labor force: The army of non-workers in the United States.

The United States now has 324 million people.  Of that we have a large labor force.  70 million cannot work and most of those are children.  But what about the rest?  The media largely ignores a massive contingent of people.  This group is made of those not in the labor force.  Today we have a stunning 95 million Americans that are not in the labor force.  So the unemployment rate looks healthier than it is because many of these people are yanked out when calculating the unemployment rate.  It is still the case that we have 1 working person supporting 2 other Americans overall.  This ratio seems to pan out when we break down the numbers.  What are we to make of these 95 million Americans that are not in the labor force?

The big picture on employment

The media tries to make it seem that many that are not in the labor force are there by choice.  Yet that isn’t the case.  Many have given up on looking for work or many older Americans unable to find work have retired earlier than planned and are barely scraping by on Social Security.  This somehow is pitched as a positive thing.

But let us break down the entire population with the latest numbers:

not in labor force

Source:  Census, BLS, Jobenomics

-You first have 32 million people working for the government

-You then have 95 million people not in the labor force (can work, but not looking)

-70 million absolutely cannot work and these are mostly children

-15 million are unemployed

-112 million are part of the private employment sector

So those 112 million are largely supporting the rest of the country, including those working for the government since they are paid via tax revenues.  This isn’t a bad thing but this is the overall calculus on how our population is segmented out when it comes to employment.

The real structural changes are seen when we look at the participation ratio for employment:

US-employment-population-ratio-2000_2016-07 (1)

We are a long way from peak employment.  The recession pain is still seen in these figures and that is why people are still incredibly angry even though the stock market is near a peak and the housing market is also near a peak in terms of prices.  As we have highlighted before though, the homeownership rate is at a half century low (meaning fewer families as a percentage are owning their homes).  This of course is largely due to the bailouts favoring big investors and Wall Street when it comes to purchasing homes.

What can we do about those not in the labor force?  A large portion are retired but many are retired and are living day to day.  The new retirement model is working until you die.  95 million Americans are not in the labor force and not a peep is uttered about this in the mainstream press.

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7 Comments on this post


  1. Martin said:

    “Of those 112 million are largely supporting the rest of the country, including those working for the government since they are paid via tax revenues.”

    I would point out that without a functioning government there would be no private sector employment as there would be not country or economy, just anarchy. Therefore, having taxes is a cost of doing business. Now, the size and efficiency of the government can certainly be debated.

    August 7th, 2016 at 10:08 am
  2. skipNclair said:

    This cannot be true because Obammy has told you otherwise, hell he is even letting refugees into the country to take jobs that cannot be filled because almost everyone has a job or is under qualified to fill the positions most refugees can. The economy has never been better, debt is never a problem its an asset unless its your checking account, and the nation has never been stronger and united more then now. So lets get out there and spend all this money your making and stimulate the economy more, so that corporations can hire more refugees and manufacture more goods and keep the ball rolling. You can always have faith in the dollar, the politicians that run the nation, and what you are told by them and the media.

    August 7th, 2016 at 2:48 pm
  3. grego said:

    I have a job for everyone of these people…grab your pitchforks and follow me to DC

    August 7th, 2016 at 6:01 pm
  4. John said:

    John williams has an excellent site, he collects data on unemployment inflation ect how they used to collect it before they started manipulating the figures.
    Gives a good idea of the true state of the economy.

    August 11th, 2016 at 12:44 am
  5. Alex said:

    So why isn’t the message to STOP IMMIGRATION? We have too many people here!

    August 13th, 2016 at 11:51 am
  6. Jeff said:

    I am a regular reader of MB360, but I was surprised in this post to see that people with disabilities were not included in the breakdown of the U.S. workforce.

    There are, according to the CDC (and many other sources), 53 million adults in the U.S. with a disability.

    Employers are beginning to realize how these citizens can contribute (usually through simple job-site accommodations), but people with disabilities continue to be vastly underrepresented in the workforce compared with their desire and ability to work.

    Let’s not ignore 53 million people!

    August 23rd, 2016 at 7:12 am
  7. Konstantin said:

    I don’t quite get this, though – what about the substantial number of homemaker/housewives? Aren’t they also “out of the labor force” but for relatively sensible and traditional reasons?

    August 23rd, 2016 at 1:23 pm


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