Labor Force Participation Rate — An Indictment of Obamanomics

| September 10 2012
David Leeper

Finally the media are beginning to report, regularly, the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR).  The LFPR is simply the percentage of the working population (age 16 and over) that is actually employed.

The traditional “unemployment rate” is now widely acknowledged to have a weakness — namely, it does not reflect the number of people who have given up looking for work.  But the LFPR includes that effect by showing the percentage of the work force actually employed.

Further, the commonly reported number of jobs created over any period of time does not reflect our growing population and the need for new jobs to sustain that growth.  The LFPR includes that effect as well.

So what does LFPR show?

The figure at the top of the page shows LFPR over the life of the last five Presidential terms.  Under Ronald Reagan, who took over from Jimmy “The Malaise” Carter, LFPR was virtually flat until Reagan’s tax cuts took hold and LFPR turned skyward. Under Bush41, Clinton, and Bush43, the LFPR was relatively flat, although it began to climb again in 1994 after Clinton & Gingrich helped get people off welfare and back to work.  Right after 9/11, LFPR takes about a 1 percentage-point hit and then levels off around 2004.  But in 2008, the housing & banking crisis hit full force, Obama got elected, and the LFPR began dropping even faster than Reagan’s era saw it rise.

This chart confirms what (even) the Left-leaning press is now reporting — namely, that the LFPR is now at the lowest level in over 30 years.  Not good.  Not good at all, no matter how they try to spin it.

The Romney-Ryan ticket is proposing Reagan-like policies to bring about a recovery, get people back to work, increase the ratio of makers to takers, and consequently reverse the slide in LFPR.  Based on what Reagan accomplished, that sounds promising, no? Obama hasn’t proposed a single policy that would significantly reverse the downward trend in LFPR that he has cultivated (deliberately or not) for the past four years.

Obama really should step back and let some adults take charge for a while.  Maybe he can try his grade-school Marxist ideology again some day when the LFPR has recovered and we can better afford to indulge him and his Left-wing entourage.

But I digress.

The August jobs statistics are simply dismal — again.  And Democrat apologists again deflect and demure by condescendingly advising us to focus on longer-term trends rather than any one month’s results. We’ve tried to do exactly that in this article.

So how does that 2009-2012 trend look to you?  Can you see any improvements in LFPR under Obama?  Would you like to see the Obama trend continue for another 4 years?  

LFPR is hardly a new statistic.  The graph at the top of this article has been available for many years, updated monthly, right on the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site (minus the annotations of course).  So why do you suppose Obama’s apologists and media collaborators haven’t featured a chart of LFPR like the one above?

Looking at the slopes of those red and green trend lines, I think the answer is pretty obvious.