How bad is the unemployment rate?
Labor market numbers reported today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are pretty bad. Only 69,000 jobs created last month, when we would need something more like 400,000 to be in a healthy recovery. But they are actually worse than it looks like, if that is possible. The key to understand why numbers are too rosy is the so-called participation rate. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of working-age persons in an economy who are employed or are unemployed but looking for a job, shown in the graph below. At the peak, from 1997 to 2000 the participation rate was 67.1%, but fell to 63.8% now.