Unemployment is down, but there's a depressing reason why

Not everything out of Friday's labor report is good news

Published November 3, 2017 1:44PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

The unemployment rate may have dropped to its lowest in 17 years over October, but a sharp drop in the labor force participation rate suggests everything isn't as rosy as Trump supporters may want to believe.

A whopping 5.2 million employees dropped out of the labor market in October, according to Bloomberg. This is the largest decline since the rate started getting recorded in 1990, although it is unclear as to why the major drop occurred in the first place. Because of the recent series of hurricanes that have been bashing the Gulf Coast, the rate could have experienced an anomalous decline that will ultimately correct itself. Then again, it could also be the result of Baby Boomers starting to retire in droves, which if so means it could portend a more lasting trend.

Either way, the share of employed Americans leaving the labor force compared to the total civilian population was at its highest level since 2001.

The decline in the labor force participation rate wasn't the only number marring what would have otherwise been a sunny economic report for Trump. Wages only grew by 2.4 percent compared with one year earlier, a decline from the figure in September. Although the economy added 261,000 jobs, the Wall Street projection had been for 310,000 jobs to be added, making the jobs growth number a bit disappointing. Finally, the fact that the economy has been adding jobs for 85 straight months — the longest streak on record — means that the overall positive economic trend can still be traced back to the economic recovery that began under President Barack Obama.


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Labor Force Participation Rate Unemployment