Labor Force Participation Rate Plunges To 5 Year Low Of 64.6%

Tyler Durden's picture

The chart below demonstrates the plunge in the civilian labor force participation: in December 153.059 million were in the labor force, 15.267 million were unemployed and 83.865 million were not in the labor force: a 64.6% participation rate.

Now keep in mind the 5 year average participation rate has been 65.9% (including December's data, 66% excluding). That is a 3.073 million delta, and the definition of labor force attachment is probably a loose combination of government semantics. Had those 3 million still be in the labor force (and, of course, not employed), the number of unemployed workers would have been 18.340 million, which in turn would result in an unemployment rate of 12%.

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Stuart's picture

Good points AND that is just the U-3 figure.   The U-6, a much better reflection of employment stress in the labor market would be closer to 19 or 20%.

litoralkey's picture

Everybody needs to drink up!

The 'Unexpected Drinking Game' has begun!!


Paulson    [BusinessWeek] U.S. Stock-Index Futures Drop on Unexpected Decrease in Jobs -


We didn't forget you our northern brethren! Break out the Screech!


(08:39:29 AM) Paulson: [Bloomberg] Canada Unexpectedly Lost 2600 Jobs in December, Paced by Transportation - -

Anonymous's picture

For anyone with any analytical skills, the (UN)employment report confirms the HORRENDOUS situation... Of course, the MSM is already focusing on the "good news": the economy (supposedly) created jobs in November...

Humble Gentleman's picture

Jobs were probably created in November -- to support the Christmas holiday. The Christmas holiday is now over; watch out below. I spoke to a textile owner right after Christmas, and he said that he was going to let go four people after the new year. He also told me that his material costs continue to rise while his revenues have been dropping. Stag-what?

msorense's picture

Exactly right.  I'm in manufacturing and have to buy various metals - brass, stainless, etc.  Prices are going up like crazy again.  No one can raise their price so guess what happens?  All the money printing will be good for government jobs but the private sector (those that don't serve the gov.) will have to cut, cut, cut.  Why? Because the Chinese price NEVER changes.

Anonymous's picture

Those November jobs will only last one month. Next month the BLS will revise their birth/death model and suddenly a whole bunch of jobs will vanish.

deadhead's picture

And fly on the wall just reports that UPS is eliminating 1800 jobs...but the good news is that they raised their eps forecast.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

A perfect example of the psychopathic nature of corporations and the distorted effect they have on their "investors" is this news release, along with thousands of others over the past 3 years.

We are laying off people, potentially destroying or severely disrupting 1800 families for years on end. Good news, that means the soulless corporation while make a few more pennies per share for the next few quarters.

What's good for the soulless corporation is bad for society. But because there interests are legally and morally disconnected from society as a whole and we've all bought into the idea that this is the way (and the only way) the world works, lets all act like soulless corporations. After all, it's a dog eat dog world. Or at least that's the justification for legally establishing self centered narcissistic naval gazing soulless corporations.

Circular logic that benefits the few at the expense of many.

Ned Zeppelin's picture

When CD talks, I bow to his/her/its wisdom.

Who is a person? Since when is the root idea of our society, our common wealth, our great Republican experiment, that of grotesquely benefiting a few inanimate constructs and the human beings who control them? American Revolution version 2.0 in stores now!


chunkylover42's picture

Let me play devil's advocate.  By logical extension of this statement:

"What's good for the soulless corporation is bad for society."

then corporations should not be allowed to exist.  But we must provide for our livelihood in some fashion, so does the government provide a job for us?  Or should we just accept that corporations are inherently bad for society as a necessary evil (i.e. the benefits they provide outweigh the negatives).

Are we allowed to be small business owners selling our wares in storefronts?  But then at what point does a small business owner become a corporation?

I'm interested to hear how you would address the problem that what's good for the soulless corporation is bad for society.

(To be clear, I am not criticizing your overall premise that the lives of 1800 familes are negatively impacted for a few extra pennies per share.  I am just asking what you think we should do about it.)

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Thanks for the feedback. To answer would entail a long post with lots of back and forth and my answer will not do justice to your question in the least. This is a simplistic response.

Let me first challenge a basic premise you put forth. "But we must provide for our livelihood in some fashion, so does the government provide a job for us?" So our livelihood can only come from large corporations? This is the only way we can be employed or make a living? Corporations don't need to be structured in the way they are. Why do we assume they can only be this way? For whose benefit are they structured? I'm told it's for the benefit of the public, that this is the only reason for their existence. Really?

To be fair, what I'm mostly talking about here are extremely large limited liability corporations. I also place some blame on certain states that the majority of large LLC's are domiciled in that have, through state laws, (shall we say) encouraged immoral behavior.

One of the constant explanations I hear for (limited liability) corporations is to limit liability by shielding the owners from financial harm coming from the actions of the corporation to no more than the owners investment. I'm told this makes it easier to raise capital and it spreads the wealth of ownership to smaller investors. That may or may not be the case. Personally I don't understand why this needs to be.

I've studied this subject (I'm also a CFP, CFA, CLU, RIA etc etc so I'm not speaking just from book knowledge) and when you boil it all down, what's really going on here is the LLC (along with enacted laws to enable certain behaviour) is better able to leverage it's money, work force and political influence with much less concern about the ultimate consequences than smaller companies and most certainly individuals. That my friend is an life advantage I can never overcome, never mind match. 

The worst that can happen is the LLC goes bankrupt and the owners lose their money. Don't conflate ownership of the LLC with the executives running the corporation. Owners can be executives but most owners are not executives. I didn't see any non executive (non principal) owners of Worldcom going to jail. Even the board of directors is shielded to some extent.

While on the surface the corporation(s) and politicians will assure us that it's to our benefit for big business to have these liberties, I'm not convinced in the least. I see it as a legal way to rape and pillage, to exploit their inherent advantages, with little concern over the consequences.

Something always comes to mind when I'm thinking about big (LLC) corporations. What is their purpose if I constantly hear that any new hiring will come from small business? While the question can be answered in so many ways, I fail to see one answer that shows me it's in the public best interest for that LLC to be in existence.

All I see is large LLC existing solely to leverage profits and minimize liabilities.

chunkylover42's picture

thanks for your post, I have a better sense where you're coming from now.  First, let me add some color to one of my statements, as I think you might have misinterpreted it a bit.

While I did say "But we must provide for our livelihood in some fashion, so does the government provide a job for us?" I was too casual in my example.  I did not mean to imply that individuals can only work at large corporations, just that we must provide for our own well-being in some fashion, which means we are working in some capacity.  It might be for a large corporation, but you could be the hot dog vendor on the corner too.  Somehow, you're putting food on your family's table.  My point was to illustrate that if you are not going to allow corporations to exist because they harm society, then by extension I'm not allowed to sell hot dogs on the corner either, because that's really just a small corporation.  If you decide that we can have small businesses but not large corporations, well, when does one become the other and who decides?  I can't reconcile an answer to that question.

Now let me challenge a premise that you have put forth: "For whose benefit are they structured? I'm told it's for the benefit of the public, that this is the only reason for their existence."  Corporations are structured for the benefit of their owners, not the public.  It is the owners that have risked capital to develop the corporation and they are entitled to the payoffs  (granted this assumes a more normal world that isn't built on moral hazards, but bear with me here). 

Now, I do agree with you regarding the behavior of exectuives within a corporation (or more specifically, an LLC).  In my opinion the penalties are not nearly stiff enough if crimes are committed.  However, the genesis of this conversation did not come from any crime.  Some people were laid off.  As tragic as that is for those families, I do not believe that anyone is entitled to a job.  The obligation for the people running the company is to do so on the owner's behalf, not make sure they hire/retain as many people as possible.  I am 99% certain that if my company could hire a replacement that would do as good a job as I do for $1 less, they would do it.  I'm a swell guy and everybody likes me, but I don't expect them to change their behavior just for me.  Here's the kicker: If I could get the same job and same situation with coworkers, etc. for $1 more, I would take it.  This company has no loyalty to me, and I have no loyalty to them.  It's not personal, it's just business.  For both of us.

I am also in agreement with you that corporations use their power to buy influence for their benefit, and that is disgusting behavior.  But if some corporation used all of it's power to save starving puppies, is that somehow OK because we all agree with the outcome?  Well then who decides what outcomes are ok?  What if the outcome has to do with abortion?  (I'm not trying to start a shitstorm with that one, I just picked an issue on which reasonable people can disagree).  Even though you and I don't like, at some level it becomes an issue of free speech.

As to why it is in the public's interest for LLCs to exist, I think you actually answered your own question.  You point out that small businesses do most of the hiring, and this is correct.  However, corporations do not magically appear out of thin air, they start as somebody's idea for a business, and that business starts out small.  They hire a few people, and then a few more, exactly in the way you described.  I would argue (my sense is you would agree) that overall this is a plus for society.  Putting people to work, allowing them to build something for themselves.  This goes back to my earlier question: at what point does this enterprise become harmful to society?  How do we measure that harmfulness and who decides?  IMO, nobody can decide those things, and as corporations grow, they can take on more owners in the form of small investors.  That could be you, me, or the hot dog vendor; it's up to each of us to decide.  If the business is well-run, they will all benefit from it.  That is good for society, no?

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I think we are closer in our views than we might think based upon our posts. But in truth it matters not whether we are close or not. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, just views and opinions. The point of my posts are to encourage discourse and alternative perceptions. I love it when I find that I'm incorrect because it means I have more to learn. Learning something new and different is never a reason to be upset or sad.

I was also very casual in my answers for the reasons stated. That of course allows room for interpretation. MsCreant calls me a windbag and at times I agree with her. But when you begin discussing a complex subject like this, no amount of wind is sufficient to fill the sails if you wish to properly convey your view.

I must say that there is a stark difference between what the public is told, what the experts are told and the truth, which is usually somewhere in between. But not always. I say this because as an "expert" I agree with your understanding of the purpose for corporations. If I were an uninformed citizen, I would have been led to believe something a bit differently.

I come to that conclusion from re-reading commonly available textbooks children are given as well as my discussions with my clients. My client base is well educated and yet I'm consistently surprised how uninformed they are as to how the corporate world works and the reason for corporations. While there are many reasons for this, the schools and the MSM are the main sources of peoples understanding and for the shocking lack of knowledge. I must constantly remind myself that the average ZH reader is far advanced compared to the average Joe.

My central thesis is that our society is structured for reasons that are not to the benefit of all but rather a few. And while there are plenty of arguments for and against how our society is structured, the entities that have an out-sized influence on how it changes and it's evolution are large LLC corporations and that this was/is done for specific reasons. I don't stand a chance in that competition.

In addition, there were/are certain points in the LLC evolution where I believe tragic and intentional errors (some would say political decisions) were made. I point to the here and now as one of those points. Looking back, another point would be when corporations were determined to have certain "human" rights that suddenly made them more than equal among equals. Tax law also favors LLC corporations in ways that the average Joe has no way of competing. There are other major issues that I won't go into.

I wasn't implying that corporations should save puppies but I understand what you're saying. Again, I am attacking the basic presumption that the world needs to have corporations as they are structured today in order to provide the basic needs of it's population. Large LLC corporations exist solely to make a profit for their owners and they are structured in a manner that I claim is psychopathic in nature, at least in today's environment. And that breeds people with the same dysfunction.

When faced with a choice between making a profit today or contributing to a better life for all, corporations will of course serve it's owners. IMHO this very structure ensures that things will get worse, not better in this world, and my premise is that this doesn't need to be, nor should it be, this way. The tragic insanity is that the average person is also walking a self destructive path mostly because the corporate/governmental structure rewards that type of behavior. 

If you read my posts here on ZH, you will see a constant theme, that being that we all need to push beyond our present understanding of how and why the world works as it does. To push past the pain of cognitive dissonance in order to expand our consciousness. It is clear to me that "man" will not survive the next few hundred years unless there is a substantial leap in our consciousness and our psychology. I'm most likely wrong on the time frame but not on the outcome if we don't change. Rather than sit around and complain, I'm being proactive, starting in my local community, but also on line in many different forums. 

I don't pretend to have all, or even some, of the answers. I prefer to see myself as the irritant in the oyster, which compels the oyster to adapt and change. In the process, the oyster creates something beautiful while strengthening itself. If nothing else, I grow from the discussions, so it benefits me to be the irritant.

chunkylover42's picture

I, for one, appreciate that you're the irritant in the oyster.  I enjoy provoking people too and challenging their thoughts.  Admittedly, I need to do more of that to myself, but that's a topic for another day.

Couple points I want to make: I also think we are not that far off in views.  I definitely acknolwedge that there are corps that play dirty and get to bend (break) the rules simply because they paid somebody to look the other way.  No question that happens, and it's a problem.  There is also an element of structure to our society that benefit some at the expense of many.  Mostly they are called politicians, and the more I see from each administration, the more I am convinced this is the case.  And you're right - the little guy is coming to a gun fight with a spiral notebook in that fight.

But (you knew there was a but) I do not think that everything a corporation does is harmful to society.  Even Wal-Mart, everyone's favorite whipping boy, provides low-priced goods to millions of customers who otherwise can't afford them.  That's why people shop there.  Yeah, there's a lot of bad stuff going on because they put mom-and-pop out of business, but should 100,000 rural residents be forced to pay more for groceries for the benefit of a few owners of a grocery store?  That's the same logic as a societal structure that benefits a few at the expense of many.

Anyway, I've enjoyed reading your comments and appreciate the civil discourse.  You've said some thought-provoking things.


Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I couldn't stay away from a good conversation.

"I do not think that everything a corporation does is harmful to society."

Neither do I. But why should we be facing a choice such as this? I must take the bad because there is some good? That in my opinion is a false choice that allows the status quo to continue. That same corporation could continue to do the good things without the bad. I'm not saying the corporation can't exist, only that it can't exist as presently structured.

I should not have to suffer terrible wrongs because of some perceived rights. There are other ways to provide the rights without all the wrongs. If that is the way to measure something we are all terribly sick in our view of our own worth to ourselves and to each other.

I'm terrible exagerating here but I want to make a stark point. That's like saying since my father goes to work every day and brings home a pay check on Friday that his beating of my mother, siblings and myself should be considered as part of the deal, that something good is coming from this dysfunctional relationship. While I agree eating on a daily basis with a roof over my head is good, the deal still sucks and doesn't need to exist simply to eat and be sheltered.

"Even Wal-Mart, everyone's favorite whipping boy, provides low-priced goods to millions of customers who otherwise can't afford them."

I won't even take on this from our point of view because there is lower hanging fruit elsewhere. Assuming that the exchange is equal and beneficial for all involved here in America, why would you assume it is also well where the goods are produced over seas?

The common argument is that our purchase of (let's say) Chinese goods puts Chinese to work. OK, under what conditions? Are these workers any better working 10-16 hours a day for low wages and no benefits in some factory hundreds or thousands of miles from where they formerly lived better off than on the farm or working locally where they come from. I can't say they are not better off but neither can you say they are better off because we simply don't have enough information.

But if we are to assume that workers rights are not as developed in China as they are in the developed world, I think it would be reasonable to lean towards not better off. And what about China's horrible environmental problems. Entire cities are corroding away from air, water and other pollutions. I could go on but you get the point.

I was talking the other day to a person about environmental degradation and he claimed that around his state, things were better. More trees, less pollution, cleaner rivers. He then said that proved things were getting better.

I then asked him how healthy the Brazilian rain forests were lately or their rivers and so on. We have simply exported the continued environmental degradation. It hasn't stopped, it's just moved over seas. Out of sight, out of mind.

faustian bargain's picture

I think what needs to be repeated often is a clear explanation of the elements of the things called 'corporations' that are anathema to free markets.

i.e. It's almost intuitively obvious (to me) the dangers inherent in both social and corporate welfare redistribution programs, in regulatory capture, moral hazard, and all that. But less clear to me is the actual disconnect between who or what a corporation is, and the citizens' rights to, say, association, private property, pursuit of happiness, etc., and where exactly a corporation allows people to infringe the rights of others. I can sense that they do, but I just can't verbalize how, specifically.

trav7777's picture

No, no no...

the "corporation" doesn't make money.  The EXECUTIVES do.


Look at the CEO-to-average pay multiple, there is what has happened.  The true owners of corporations have ceded control of them to management.

The corporations are owned by the little people, all the pensions, 401ks, mooch funds.  They are the ones who MUST FORCE CHANGE.

The corporation is is people WITH souls at the top of the executive class foodchain who are doing this shit and paying the "profits" to themselves as bonuses.

Think about it...a manager can game the numbers and take home $20M in a bonus and the company collapses in 3 years and he's gone or he can be real and get a $3M bonus each year for a few years...what's he going to do?

There is NO penalty for fucking lying, cheating, stealing or anything if you are a member of the executive class.  I know some of these people, they live an essentially consequence-free life!  And the world is their oyster.  Their kids get hookups.  It's a big family of backscratching among people who believe they deserve it at your expense.

msorense's picture

I assume that they also laid off around 50,000 temporary workers from the holidays which were added in Nov.  FedEx must be laying off an additional 10-15K.  Remember all the talk about how the hiring of temporary workers was the first step?  I hope we will hear about this in the Jan. report.

 Also UPS/FedEX (services I use every day) have raised their prices for 2010.  That's where the increase in EPS comes from - they are not paying workers more. 

Cursive's picture

By this time, John Williams should be a household name.  Unfortunately, more people are familiar with William Hueng, the warble-voiced American Idol wannabe from years past, than Mr. Williams and his Shadowstats.  Not even the financial press reports Mr. Williams with any regularity.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture


I'm convinced that the MSM trots out John and other "outliers" on a semiregular basis to discredit them in the eyes of the public. They're only brought out when they are the minority, the exception to the general consensus group think rule we're all taught from childhood is bad, something to be shunned. Don't go against the flow. Don't fight the Fed. You can't fight city hall etc.

I firmly believe that this method of control is also followed by governments and precisely why some "dissenters" are officially allowed to flourish. It gives the average person the false belief that there is a vigorous discussion taking place regarding all aspects of the debate when in fact the debate is narrowly focused and outliers are simply there to be laughed at because they are so far from the consensus.

Mad Max's picture

Sadly this seems very plausible.

Anonymous's picture

It's probably why the Ron Pauls and Alex Jones of this world are so easily accessible on YouTube. They did try to kill Martin Armstrong though...

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

In my view, that simply means that Armstrong was considered a real threat and Paul and Jones are not. At least not yet.

WaterWings's picture

I wonder if Armstrong was easier to remove because of the lack of an extremely passionate fanbase?

If AJ or RP were treated like MA I'm sure there would be massive demonstrations. Those two are kind of untouchable in my view - kind of like Kevin Costner's character in JFK when Donald Sutherland explains that, now that he is in the nationwide spotlight, he has to run with it - his enemies know there is too much attention on him to cause him harm. No point in removing a threat that can be easily marginalized with other methods.

Ripped Chunk's picture

Why would the financial press report on or quote Williams? It would run counter to 98% of the crap they report.

Anonymous's picture

Why is Erin Burnett always gently clutching something cylindrical on CNBC, either a few rolled up sheets of paper or a pen? This morning, she was gently manipulating the sheets with both hands. I wonder if that's her own idea or one of the producer's ideas.

Anonymous's picture

Did you see the stunned silence of the entire team at CNBC after the horrific performance of Christine Romer???

Erin looked like she was going to hurl. Watching this dumbass trying to spin positive info was comical but so frightening at the same time...

We are in unchartered waters here folks, and NO ONE driving the boat has a CLUE!!!!!

Anonymous's picture

John Williams is soon to be included in some security list so he'd better not travel.

Bam_Man's picture

Goldman's shareholders should sue themselves for stupidity/gullability.

Anyone who invests in a "business" where bonuses are several orders of magnitude higher than profits (and dividends are virtually non-existent) deserves what they eventually get. And we all know what that is.

trav7777's picture

This is the PROBLEM!

Shareholders are the OWNERS!

Has ANYONE here owned a business?  Did you let your MANAGERS take home all the profits of YOUR business??

The notion of entitlement to executive bonuses- FUCK THEM.  They are systematically taking every goddamned dollar.

BACK to the days of DIVIDENDS, god dammit.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

Notice the number employed in the civilian labor force - that number dropped 589k in December. Another half million people threw up their arms and said: 'F@ck it'.

Anonymous's picture

Perhaps they made enough money on the stock market to quit their jobs and try to make it as traders? :-)

Anonymous's picture

Markets are efficient. By taking a look at the financial markets you KNOW everything is fine. Stop bitching.

Anonymous's picture

I have a feeling the govt is also doing slight changes to the wording in their unemployment surveys to get more people to say they arent actively looking for work. The large gap from U3 to U6 should be decreasing some with all the slanted good news the MSM is putting out but it isnt for some reason.

crosey's picture

I'd like to see what the H1B visa participation numbers are.  My buds in the IT staffing space say that a lot of H1B consultant providers have folded up their tents.  Even the SAP consultant space is extraordinarily slow.  Feb-March are usually the tell-tale ramp up months for them.  If no ramp up, no new projects being undertaken, and that portends more US employer caution.

With all of the legislative/fed/treasury tomfoolery, why would any US employer take the risk to hire anyone?

Argonaught's picture

IT consulting is a mess.  Freelance individuals and small staffing firms are getting crushed as hourly rates continue to rapidly equalize (globally).  A hidden issue facing small consulting shops and individual contractors is the widening payment terms.  The lower rates and harder-to-find-projects can be survived.  Not being paid for 45-60 days in an environment with limited credit availability is death. 

I might have to start working out bartering deals with the local grocer!

sethstorm's picture

IT consulting is a mess.  Freelance individuals and small staffing firms are getting crushed as hourly rates continue to rapidly equalize (globally).

Unfortunately, I'd have to say that those exits to the Third World need to be closed if we're going to recover. 


Ripped Chunk's picture

The utilazation of offshore IT is massive. It has been growing for 10+ years. How do we "close the exits"?

Anonymous's picture

through old fashioned protectionism and boycotts
until tax and regulatory reform can be made to
change the incentives....

sethstorm's picture

1: Remove 20 CFR 655(regulation concerning "temporary" skilled work) and 20 CFR 656(the certification process).

2: Repeal/Rewrite any supporting laws to remove any legality to said practice.  Specify it in clear and constitutionally valid terms.

3: Apply the Business Death Penalty to any law firm (and suspension of any law license for those specifically involved), consultancy(same), or otherwise that attempts said practice.  Offer whistleblowers an incentive to leak said information.  Make it so toxic to even touch that point of immigration law that no respectable firm will touch it.

If someone wishes to work here, they cannot be made into a citizen-penalizing class of person. No Entreprenurship visas, H1, L1, EB* or whatever until our citizens already have work.




Anonymous's picture

Gee, when it was blue collar jobs being outsourced it was natural evolution. NAFTA was just great for the economy. Now that my IT is outsourced I should have a problem? I wonder if there are any intelligent people in India who could Executive? Could my stock broker or accountant live in China? How about tele-conferencing with my Feng Shui consultant? Bollywood anyone? Why is people making 6 figures looking for a job a problem when those making 5 were not? The Hispanics are leaving the country. Re train for an exciting job in the agricultural services industry!!

Cindy_Dies_In_The_End's picture

They won't Might be hiring a P/T or 1099er at the end of the year, but we will see. No one is making any money except the global elite.



Anonymous's picture

a true story from a friend on mine:
She's in IT and out of work for the past seven months. She is of Anglo-Irish descent and has an unmistakably Irish name. Anyway, she sends out resume after resume with no response for months on end.
One day she sees a job listing, and gets the bright idea to send out TWO resumes. On one she has her own name, and on the other she used "Rasha Patel". All the other information was exactly the same. Guess who the IT firm called looking for? When she told them that "Rasha doesn't live here anymore" they hung up. They never even ASKED about my friend the Irish girl.

crosey's picture

No kidding.  Wow.  Do you know whether the IT firm was the end-user, of a staffing agency?

crosey's picture

No kidding. Wow. Do you know whether the IT firm was the end-user, OR a staffing agency?

Sorry for the typo.

Mad Max's picture

That sounds like an open and shut employment discrimination case to me.  Hopefully your friend will consult a lawyer.

WaterWings's picture

If you can't achieve the American Dream the traditional way, sue for every penny. Although that is now becoming the tradition - lawyer gets 3/4 after all the dust settles.  That and crossing your fingers at the casinos.