Size of labor force drops by half million in April, unemployment rate down slightly to 8.1%

Doug Powers by Doug Powers on May 4th, 2012

This is article 66 of 117 in the topic Unemployment

Open for discussion while we put on a hard hat and watch out for a Friday afternoon document drop of some sort, here’s the latest jobs data:

The nation’s economy added 115,00 jobs in April while the unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a point to 8.1 percent.

The figures are lower than a month ago and were also below what many analysts had expected.

They will add to the sense that the labor market is cooling down after months of larger growth, and come as unwelcome news for President Obama, who is formally launching his reelection campaign on Friday with rallies in Virginia and Ohio.

The nation’s labor participation rate dropped again to 63.6 percent, suggesting workers continue to leave the labor force because their job prospects are grim. The report said the employment-population ratio is 58.4 percent.

The A.P. is doing their best spinning by saying unemployment will probably dip below 8 percent by Election Day. Maybe it will, but contributing big time to the drop is the fact that the labor force participation rate is now the lowest it has been in over 30 years. In April, the number of people exiting the labor force — and therefore not counted as “unemployed” in the government’s statistics — rose by 522,000.

Here’s the labor force participation rate over the last 30 years (h/t Ed Morrissey). If you look closely you’ll see Julia giving a cheerful wave from the uncharted depths of 21st century labor force non-participation:

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