How Economists Define and Compute Unemployment Rate

Labor Force Participation Rate

Another important statistic is the labor force participation rate. This is the percentage of adults in an economy who are either employed or who are unemployed and looking for a job. Using the data in Figure and Table, those included in this calculation would be the 159.716 million individuals in the labor force. We calculate the rate by taking the number of people in the labor force, that is, the number employed and the number unemployed, divided by the total adult population and multiplying by 100 to get the percentage. For the data from January 2017, the labor force participation rate is 62.9%. Historically, the civilian labor force participation rate in the United States climbed beginning in the 1960s as women increasingly entered the workforce, and it peaked at just over 67% in late 1999 to early 2000. Since then, the labor force participation rate has steadily declined, slowly to about 66% in 2008, early in the Great Recession, and then more rapidly during and after that recession, reaching its present level, where it has remained stable, near the end of 2013.