Tags: payrolls | labor | force | unemployment

Number of Americans ‘Not in Labor Force’ Hit Record High in February

By Dan Weil   |   Friday, 08 Mar 2013 01:30 PM

While the 236,000 gain in non-farm payrolls and the 0.2 percentage-point drop in unemployment for February excited many, another number threw some cold water on the optimism.

The number of Americans who count as "not in the labor force" totaled 89,304,000, a record high, and up 0.3 percent from 89,008,000 in January, according to the Labor Department, CNSNews.com reports.

“Not in the labor force” means they have given up looking for work or have retired (early or on schedule).

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The number of “not in the labor force” rose for the second month in a row, after registering 88.8 million in December.

There may be less to the improvement in the jobless rate — to 7.7 percent in February from 7.9 percent in January — than meets the eye as well. The Labor Department notes that the rate “has shown little movement, on net, since September 2012,” when it totaled 7.8 percent.

Even the White House expressed some caution about the jobs data. “Today’s numbers show that the recovery is gaining traction,” Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, tells Bloomberg.

Still, “the sequestration’s going to make some important cuts, which are going to hurt people. It’s going to hurt investment, and it’s going to slow economic growth and job creation.”

The February numbers certainly won’t be enough to get the Federal Reserve to back off its massive easing, economists say.

"They will want to see 200,000 job growth, not just in one month, but several months in a row," Michael Hanson, senior economist at Bank of America, tells Reuters.

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