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Seven Other Important Numbers from Today’s Jobs Report

Media coverage of the February jobs report has focused on two numbers:  236,000 (the increase in private and government payrolls) and 7.7 percent (the unemployment rate).  Below are some other numbers from the report that paint a more complicated picture of unemployment, as my earlier post noted.  You can also find a set of charts that put these numbers in historical context in that post.

  1. 36: This is the 36th straight month of private-sector job creation, with payrolls growing by 6.4 million jobs (a pace of 176,000 jobs a month) since February 2010; total nonfarm employment (private plus government jobs) has grown by 5.7 million jobs over the same period, or 159,000 a month.  Total government jobs fell by 627,000 over this period, dominated by a loss of 421,000 local government jobs.
  2. 3 million: There were still 3 million fewer jobs on nonfarm payrolls and 2.5 million fewer jobs on private payrolls in February than when the recession began in December 2007.  February’s job growth is the best we have seen since November, but we are still waiting to see sustained job growth in the 200,000 to 300,000 jobs a month range that would mark a robust jobs recovery.
  3. 63.5 percent: The labor force participation rate (the share of people aged 16 and over who are working or actively looking for work) was 63.5 percent in February, slightly below its 63.7 percent average for 2012.  The Great Recession and lack of job opportunities drove many people out of the labor force.  Prior to this latest period, it had not been so low since the early 1980s.
  4. 130,000: The labor force fell by 130,000 in February.  That’s because, while the number of unemployed fell by 300,000, the number of people with a job rose by only 170,000.  In a robust jobs recovery, the labor force would be growing as people came off the sidelines confident they could find work.
  5. 58.6 percent: The share of the population with a job was 58.6 percent in February — the same as its average in 2012.  It plummeted in the recession from 62.7 percent in December 2007 to levels last seen in the mid-1980s and has remained below 60 percent since early 2009.
  6. 23 million: Roughly 23 million people are unemployed or underemployed.  That’s because the Labor Department’s most comprehensive alternative unemployment rate measure — which includes people who want to work but are discouraged from looking (those marginally attached to the labor force) and people working part time because they can’t find full-time jobs — was 14.3 percent in February, which translates into roughly 23 million people.  February’s 14.3 percent rate was down from the all-time high of 17.1 percent in late 2009 (in data that go back to 1994) but still 5.5 percentage points higher than at the start of the recession.
  7. 40.2 percent: Over two-fifths (40.2 percent) of the 12.0 million people who are unemployed — 4.8 million people — have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer. These long-term unemployed represent 3.1 percent of the labor force.  Before this recession, the previous highs for these long-term unemployment statistics over the past six decades were 26.0 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, in June 1983.