It has been mentioned in many articles, and on TV, that there were a large number of discouraged workers last month. The number, 661,000 peaked my interest, so I decided to see just how unusual it is for that many workers to leave the workforce in any given December.
I queried the Bureau of Labor Statistics database, and as it turns out, if you compare net December Labor Force Level changes, going back as far as I could retrieve monthly data for from the BLS site, the 661,000 drop in labor force for any December prior to this, was a drop of 324,400 in 1981. We all know what a wonderful year that was.
In other words, the 2009 December labor force reduction commonly referred to in print or on TV as, "Discouraged Workers", was more than twice that of any other December going back to 1976. December 1981 had a reduction in workforce number of 324,000.
I thought, well I'm not quite depressed enough yet, so I'll go ahead and look at the entire year, and see how 2009 stacks up with previous years in terms of discouraged workers.
This was an interesting number indeed. More interesting than the monthly December number.
In 2009, the Labor Force Level, dropped, by 1,528,000 workers. You might be thinking, well that's not so bad, because in December alone, the Labor Force Level dropped 661,000!
Well, comparing 2009 with other yearly reductions in Labor Force Levels, 2009 sets the record in a "Big" way.
The closet "change" (notice I didn't say drop) in any years Labor Force Level, going back to 1976 compared to 2009's decline of 1,528,000 workers was an increase of only 522,000 workers.
In other words, 2009 labor force reductions levels have exceeded any prior year going back to 1976, by more than 2 Million discouraged workers.
Now, one might speculate that maybe the increase in population had turned around for some unknown reason, offering an explanation for the startling levels of discouraged workers.
I thought to myself, that must be it, I'll go check out the population levels, and surely I'll find a decrease there, explaining the inexplicably high discouraged workers number.
No dice. After sorting through those numbers, I discovered that, the population increase in the U.S. was a very similar increase when compared to the preceding 30 years. The U.S. added around 1.9 Million people in 2009. The annual net 12 month change in the "Not in the Labor Force" number was the highest on record, going back to 1969, 3,417,000.
In December 2009, we experienced the largest month of December decline in the Labor Force Level, 661 thousand discouraged workers, dating back to at least going back to 1976. (The BLS didn't show monthly numbers prior to that.)
For the year 2009, we experienced the 1st ever annual decline in the Labor Force Level (Discouraged workers) dating back to 1969.
For the year 2009, the Not in the Labor Force number increased by the largest number, 3,417,000, dating back to 1976.
At this point, I thought, OK, I'm depressed enough now, so I think I'll quit looking at this unhappy web site, and go have a beer.
Go look for yourself.
Select Databases & Tables
Go to Unemployment
At the "Labor Force Statistics including the National Unemployment Rate" line,
Select One-Screen Data SearchThen you build your customized labor statistics query.
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