There are 316 million people – men, women and children – living in the United States.
Of that number, approximately 245 million are eligible to work according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the bureau’s most recent count, there are 155,559,000 people working at some kind of job – and, as new numbers released Tuesday reveal, there are 90,609,000 more eligible workers who have elected to drop out of the labor force.
That’s more than one third of eligible workers who, for various reasons, aren’t factored into the BLS unemployment computation – which would explain, at least in part, why the unemployment rate remains stable (it’s currently at 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in August.) Employment in the U.S. increased by about 133,000 people last month, but 73,000 eligible workers dropped out during the same period.
That continues a five-year trend. The pre-recession labor force remained relatively stable until late 2008, when it began a numbers dive that persists to this day. Since President Barack Obama took office, the percentage of eligible Americans participating in the labor force has sunk from 65.7 percent to a new low of 63.2 percent.
For some perspective, here’s a 10-year graph taken from the BLS website: