As bad as today’s jobs report seemed, it actually soft-pedals the US employment situation, David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times. In November, 251,000 workers lost their jobs, driving the unemployment rate to 6.7%. But “unemployed” describes only individuals actively looking for work, and the number of Americans out of work or not job-hunting rose by 637,000.
Those 637,000 who moved from “unemployed” to “outside the labor force” actually lowered the percentage of unemployed. Put another way, the share of men over 16 who have a job is lower than it has been since the government began tabulating statistics in the 1940s, while the share of women who are working has never fallen as drastically at any point in history.