CAP en Español
Small CAP Banner

Idea of the Day: Taking the Temperature of the U.S. Labor Market

  • print icon
  • SHARE:
  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • Share on Google+
  • Email icon

idea light bulb

Since the end of the Great Recession, the economy has added 7.7 million jobs, and the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent to 6.7 percent. But beneath these top-line numbers, the labor market is still quite fragile. In March, the Federal Reserve tacitly acknowledged the widening gap between the reality of the labor market and its most well-known measures by switching from a quantitative unemployment threshold to more comprehensive “measures of the labor market” in its forward guidance. The question, then, is this: What are some of these broader labor-market indicators the Federal Reserve will be looking at? Here’s a quick tour of the most important jobs data you never see in the headlines.

When the economy is doing well, more people typically enter the labor market because there are more jobs available. So we should expect the labor-force participation rate to be increasing in the aftermath of the recession. It hasn’t been. Instead, it’s declined steadily since the end of the recession and is as low today as it was in the late 1970s, when women were entering the workforce for the first time.

For more on this topic, please see:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Benton Strong (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.481.8142 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Jennifer Molina
202.796.9706 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or


This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here