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How's the economy doing? Employment rate vs. unemployment rate tells grim tale


President Obama and his supporters may like to brag about how the national unemployment rate has dropped to 7.6 from a high of 10.0 during his first year in office, but a look at the nation's actual employment trends demonstrate why this rhetoric holds no water.

As you know, the unemployment rate is determined by counting the number of Americans actively seeking work.  It does not account, however, for those workers who have left the job market or given up on looking for full-time employment.  When you use the actual employment rate as a barometer of the country's overall labor market, you can see that our economic "recovery" has actually been stalled throughout Obama's time in office:

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports:

...The labor-force participation rate — the share of people aged 16 and over who are either working or officially unemployed — fell in the Great Recession and then continued to decline in the sluggish recovery.  It is now at levels not seen since 1981.

As a result of the combination of a high unemployment rate and a low labor-force participation rate, the share of people aged 16 and over who have a job — what is often called the employment rate (or, more technically, the employment-population ratio) — plunged in the recession to levels not seen since the mid-1980s and has remained there.  While the percentage of workers in the labor force who are unemployed has fallen since late 2009, producing a decline in the official unemployment rate, this masks the cold reality that the percentage of the adult population with a job is still stuck at levels it fell to when the economy hit bottom.
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