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Today's Labor Force - Gender, Age, Race, And Ethnic Origin

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In 2005 nearly three-quarters of the male population and three-fifths of the female population aged sixteen years and older participated in the labor force, according to the BLS in Employment and Earnings (January 2006). The number of men increased from 52.2 million in 1971 to eighty million in 2005, a 53% increase. Among women in the civilian labor force, however, the increase was more dramatic. In 1971, 32.3 million women were employed or seeking employment, compared with 69.3 million in 2005, a 115% increase. These numbers reveal a shift in the proportions of women and men in the labor force: 79.1% of men were counted among the civilian labor force in 1971, compared with 73.3% by 2005. At the same time, the percentage of women participating in the labor force increased from 43.4% in 1971 to 59.3% in 2005. (See Table 1.1.)

A slightly higher percentage of whites (66.3%) were in the labor force in 2005 than Asian-Americans (66.1%) or African-Americans (64.2%), as reported in Employment and Earnings. African-American women over twenty years of age (64.4%) were somewhat more likely to be in the labor force than white or Asian-American women of the same age (59.7% and 60.1%, respectively), while a somewhat higher percentage of white men twenty years and older (76.2%) were in the labor force compared with African-American men (71.3%). Asian-American men twenty years of age and over participated in the labor force at the highest rate in 2005 (78.4%). (See Table 1.2.)

The BLS also reported that Americans between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four were the most likely age group to be working or looking for work in 2005, with 90.5% of men and 75.3% of women in that age group counted among the labor force. The percentage dropped to 69.3% for men and 57% for women among those aged fifty-five to sixty-four. (See Table 1.3.)

Unemployment in 2005 was highest among the youngest workers, with those aged sixteen to nineteen experiencing a rate of 16.6%. The low unemployment rate indicated among those aged fifty-four to sixty-five (3.3% in 2005), compared with the national average of 5.1% for all workers aged sixteen and over, likely indicates that many of the older workers had retired and were no longer in the labor force. (See Table 1.3.) Historically, the exit of older workers from the workforce is the result of various reasons, ranging from disability to a genuine desire to retire. For some people, however, leaving the workforce is not a voluntary act. Elimination of middle management positions and other cost-cutting efforts can disproportionately affect older workers, who generally earn more than younger workers with less experience.

Student Workers

According to 2004 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 41% of American students

TABLE 1.1 Employment status of the population 16 years and over by sex, 1971–2005

TABLE 1.1
Employment status of the population 16 years and over by sex, 1971–2005
[Numbers in thousands]
Year Civillian noninstitutional population Civilian labor force Not in labor force
Total Percent of population Employed Unemployed
Total Percent of population Agriculture Nonagricultural industries Number Percent of labor force
Men
1971 65,942 52,180 79.1 49,390 74.9 2,795 46,595 2,789 5.3 13,762
1972* 67,835 53,555 78.9 50,896 75.0 2,849 48,047 2,659 5.0 14,280
1973* 69,292 54,624 78.8 52,349 75.5 2,847 49,502 2,275 4.2 14,667
1974 70,808 55,739 78.7 53,024 74.9 2,919 50,105 2,714 4.9 15,069
1975 72,291 56,299 77.9 51,857 71.7 2,824 49,032 4,442 7.9 15,993
1976 73,759 57,174 77.5 53,138 72.0 2,744 50,394 4,036 7.1 16,585
1977 75,193 58,396 77.7 54,728 72.8 2,671 52,057 3,667 6.3 16,797
1978* 76,576 59,620 77,9 56,479 73.8 2,718 53,761 3,142 5.3 16,956
1979 78,020 60,726 77.8 57,607 73.8 2,686 54,921 3,120 5.1 17,293
1980 79,398 61,453 77.4 57,186 72.0 2,709 54,477 4,267 6.9 17,945
1981 80,511 61,974 77.0 57,397 71.3 2,700 54,697 4,577 7.4 18,537
1982 81,523 62,450 76.6 56,271 69.0 2,736 53,534 6,179 9.9 19,073
1983 82,531 63,047 76.4 56,787 68.8 2,704 54,083 6,260 9.9 19,484
1984 83,605 63,835 76.4 59,091 70.7 2,668 56,423 4,744 7.4 19,771
1985 84,469 64,411 76.3 59,891 70.9 2,535 57,356 4,521 7.0 20,058
1986* 85,798 65,422 76.3 60,892 71.0 2,511 58,381 4,530 6.9 20,376
1987 86,899 66,207 76.2 62,107 71.5 2,543 59,564 4,101 6.2 20,692
1988 87,857 66,927 76.2 63,273 72.0 2,493 60,780 3,655 5.5 20,930
1989 88,762 67,840 76.4 64,315 72.5 2,513 61,802 3,525 5.2 20,923
1990* 90,377 69,011 76.4 65,104 72.0 2,546 62,559 3,906 5.7 21,367
1991 91,278 69,168 75.8 64,223 70.4 2,589 61,634 4,946 7.2 22,110
1992 92,270 69,964 75.8 64,440 69.8 2,575 61,866 5,523 7.9 22,306
1993 93,332 70,404 75.4 65,349 70.0 2,478 62,871 5,055 7.2 22,927
1994* 94,354 70,817 75.1 66,450 70.4 2,554 63,896 4,367 6.2 23,538
1995 95,178 71,360 75.0 67,377 70.8 2,559 64,818 3,983 5.6 23,818
1996 96,206 72,086 74.9 68,207 70.9 2,573 65,634 3,880 5.4 24,119
1997* 97,715 73,261 75.0 69,685 71.3 2,552 67,133 3,577 4.9 24,454
1998* 98,758 73,959 74.9 70,693 71.6 2,553 68,140 3,266 4.4 24,799
1999* 99,722 74,512 74.7 71,446 71.6 2,432 69,014 3,066 4.1 25,210
2000* 101,964 76,280 74.8 73,305 71.9 1,861 71,444 2,975 3.9 25,684
2001 103,282 76,886 74.4 73,196 70.9 1,708 71,488 3,690 4.8 26,396
2002 104,585 77,500 74.1 72,903 69.7 1,724 71,179 4,597 5.9 27,085
2003* 106,435 78,238 73.5 73,332 68.9 1,695 71,636 4,906 6.3 28,197
2004* 107,710 78,980 73.3 74,524 69.2 1,687 72,838 4,456 5.6 28,730
2005* 109,151 80,033 73.3 75,973 69.6 1,654 74,319 4,059 5.1 29,119
Women
1971 74,274 32,202 43.4 29,976 40.4 599 29,377 2,227 6.9 42,072
1972* 76,290 33,479 43.9 31,257 41.0 635 30,622 2,222 6.6 42,811
1973* 77,804 34,804 44.7 32,715 42.0 622 32,093 2,089 6.0 43,000
1974 79,312 36,211 45.7 33,769 42.6 596 33,173 2,441 6.7 43,101
1975 80,860 37,475 46.3 33,989 42.0 584 33,404 3,486 9.3 43,386
1976 82,390 38,983 47.3 35,615 43.2 588 35,027 3,369 8.6 43,406
1977 83,840 40,613 48.4 37,289 44.5 612 36,677 3,324 8.2 43,227
1978* 85,334 42,631 50.0 39,569 46.4 669 38,900 3,061 7.2 42,703
1979 86,843 44,235 50.9 41,217 47.5 661 40,556 3,018 6.8 42,608
1980 88,348 45,487 51.5 42,117 47.7 656 41,461 3,370 7.4 42,861
1981 89,618 46,696 52.1 43,000 48.0 667 42,333 3,696 7.9 42,922
1982 90,748 47,755 52.6 43,256 47.7 665 42,591 4,499 9.4 42,993
1983 91,684 48,503 52.9 44,047 48.0 680 43,367 4,457 9.2 43,181
1984 92,778 49,709 53.6 45,915 49.5 653 45,262 3,794 7.6 43,068
1985 93,736 51,050 54.5 47,259 50.4 644 46,615 3,791 7.4 42,686
1986* 94,789 52,413 55.3 48,706 51.4 652 48,054 3,707 7.1 42,376
1987 95,853 53,658 56.0 50,334 52.5 666 49,668 3,324 6.2 42,195
1988 96,756 54,742 56.6 51,696 53.4 676 51,020 3,046 5.6 42,014
1989 97,630 56,030 57.4 53,027 54.3 687 52,341 3,003 5.4 41,601
1990* 98,787 56,829 57.5 53,689 54.3 678 53,011 3,140 5.5 41,957
1991 99,646 57,178 57.4 53,496 53.7 680 52,815 3,683 6.4 42,468
1992 100,535 58,141 57.8 54,052 53.8 672 53,380 4,090 7.0 42,394
1993 101,506 58,795 57.9 54,910 54.1 637 54,273 3,885 6.6 42,711
1994* 102,460 60,239 58.8 56,610 55.3 855 55,755 3,629 6.0 42,221
1995 103,406 60,944 58.9 57,523 55.6 881 56,642 3,421 5.6 42,462
1996 104,385 61,857 59.3 58,501 56.0 871 57,630 3,356 5.4 42,528
1997* 105,418 63,036 59.8 59,873 56.8 847 59,026 3,162 5.0 42,382

TABLE 1.1 Employment status of the population 16 years and over by sex, 1971–2005 (CONTINUED) "2. Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population 16 Years and Over by Sex, 1971 to Date," in Employment and Earnings, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2006, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat2.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)

TABLE 1.1
Employment status of the population 16 years and over by sex, 1971–2005 (CONTINUED)
[Numbers in thousands]
Year Civillian noninstitutional population Civilian labor force Not in labor force
Total Percent of population Employed Unemployed
Total Percent of population Agriculture Nonagricultural industries Number Percent of labor force
*Not strictly comparable with data for prior years.
SOURCE: "2. Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population 16 Years and Over by Sex, 1971 to Date," in Employment and Earnings, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2006, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat2.pdf (accessed January 9, 2006)
1998* 106,462 63,714 59.8 60,771 57.1 825 59,945 2,944 4.6 42,748
1999* 108,031 64,855 60.0 62,042 57.4 849 61,193 2,814 4.3 43,175
2000* 110,613 66,303 59.9 63,586 57.5 602 62,983 2,717 4.1 44,310
2001 111,811 66,848 59.8 63,737 57.0 591 63,147 3,111 4.7 44,962
2002 112,985 67,363 59.6 63,582 56.3 587 62,995 3,781 5.6 45,621
2003* 114,733 68,272 59.5 64,404 56.1 580 63,824 3,868 5.7 46,461
2004* 115,647 68,421 59.2 64,728 56.0 546 64,182 3,694 5.4 47,225
2005* 116,931 69,288 59.3 65,757 56.2 544 65,213 3,531 5.1 47,643

were employed while going to school, including 26.6% of those attending high school and 53.6% of those attending college. (See Table 1.4.) In College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2004 High School Graduates, the BLS reported that 31.8% of high school students were engaged in some form of work or job-seeking activity during October 2004. This participation rate represented a significant decline from the 1990s, when typically about 40% of high school students worked at least part-time.

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