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Chart Of The Day: Labor Force (Lack Of) Participation Or "We'll Just Make It Up As We Go Along"

Tyler Durden's picture


By now the widely accepted groupthink on the collapsing labor force participation rate, which as we noted last Friday, cratered to a fresh 35 year low of 62.8% which was the main reason for the collapse in the unemployment rate to 6.7% from 7.3% two months ago, is that it was perfectly expected and is largely due to demographics. Sadly this is just another example of goalseeking a real-time variable to "fit" with a narrative of a recovery when in reality there is no recovery for the record 91.8 million Americans who have given up on work entirely and are now out of the labor force.  All of this is well-known. What may not be as well known is that every two years the BLS releases medium-term (10-year) projections for the participation rate. The projections include the demographic composition of the population and the LFP rates of different  demographic groups, among other statistics. And it is here that we see just how "made up" the narrative surrounding the demographic mea culpa truly is.

Presenting exhibit A: "Labor force projections to 2012: the graying of the U.S. workforce", released by BLS' Mitra Toossi in February 2004. Jumping to the punchline, here is what the BLS expected a decade ago:

  • Total Civilian Labor Force forecast in 2012: 162,269
  • Total civilian non-institutional population: 241,604

Or, a predicted labor force participation rate of 67.2%, or notably higher than the 66.0% as of the report's publication in February 2004.

Where are we now?

  • Total Civilian Labor Force at December 2012: 155,485, just under 7 million less than was expected (and this with the so-called recovery)
  • Total Civilian non-institutional population at December 2012: 244,350, or 3 million more than expected.

Net: a 10 million worker delta! Does this mean that, gasp, America's demographic crunch and "Baby Boomers are retiring" meme were unknown just ten short years ago? Apparently yes. Because somehow the 67.2% expected LFP at the end of 2012 ended up being 63.6% and sliding. And the punchline - if one were to use the expected 67.2% LFP rate, today's unemployment rate would be higher than 12%!

Because here is what happened next in subsequent BLS labor force participation forecasts:

In a nutshell: lower, lower, lower as the LFP entirely not in line with forecasts, cratered. But hey, what they know now, namely that Americans can't wait to retire because they have so many 0% yielding savings, they didn't know back then.

And there you have it: when it comes to the Labor Force Participation rate, one can best summarize it by the old maxim: "We'll just make it up as we go along."

Source, ironically, St. Louis Fed: A Closer Look at the Decline in the Labor Force Participation Rate

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Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:14 | 4327261 Max Damage
Max Damage's picture

Does posting on here count as labour participation? ? Could add a few to the numbers if they use it?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:17 | 4327283 ptoemmes
ptoemmes's picture

Hmmm...what we need a a goverment program that pays us - well me to heck with the rest of you ;-) - to post on ZH.  

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:29 | 4327341 Headbanger
Headbanger's picture

Even those dismal projections will prove to be way too optimistic when this house of glass cards crashes down.

Then again, we may well see an 80% labor participation rate when anybody left must farm and hunt for their own food.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:53 | 4327441 resurger
resurger's picture

I will send drones and robots to hunt for my food... it would be dangerous to venture at that time.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:39 | 4327818 Haywood Jablowme
Haywood Jablowme's picture

Participation rate or not, I'm just glad my monopoly $$ is going towards the purchase of high-grade penis-pumps.

I'm sorry, I meant VES aka vacuum erection systems....


Can anyone confirm if these are made in China or the good ole' USSofA?  I'll be damned if those slant-eyes get another cent of my slave wages.



Mon, 01/13/2014 - 15:36 | 4328030 boogerbently
boogerbently's picture

Here's how bad (obvious) it' has gotten.

The financial bobbing heads at MSNBC were just discussing that the govt unemployment numbers were not credible !

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:35 | 4327351 Emergency Ward
Emergency Ward's picture

The only ones on the Govt payroll are the down-arrow trolls...

<<<<< see?  Now where's my check?!?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:06 | 4327710 DOT
DOT's picture

Your check has been converted into a special note which is now ensconsed within a Lockbox.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 15:40 | 4328053 boogerbently
boogerbently's picture

The new BLS parameters for next months unemployment numbers only count people who are currently employed.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 15:41 | 4328054 boogerbently
boogerbently's picture

The new BLS parameters for next months unemployment numbers only count people who are currently employed.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 15:41 | 4328056 boogerbently
boogerbently's picture

The new BLS parameters for next months unemployment numbers only count people who are currently employed.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:20 | 4327296 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Oh shit, don't say that!

Must...sign...up...EBT...S.S. Disability...

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:23 | 4327312 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

That depends. Are you a NSA troll?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:36 | 4327366 SandiaMan
SandiaMan's picture

Jury Duty count?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:13 | 4327527 XAU XAG
XAU XAG's picture

Seems like everything now days is

"We'll Just Make It Up As We Go Along"


Having woken up in 2008 thier are so many .............still ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL!


Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:15 | 4327264 Cocomaan
Cocomaan's picture

Excellent analysis. Heard some moron on NPR talking about this demographic change, so it's good to see those soothsayers at the BLS being forced to take their own medicine. 

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:16 | 4327267 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Real US unemployment is closer to 30% than 12%.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:35 | 4327357 BLOTTO
BLOTTO's picture

Work ruins your life in this day and age.

7am getting ready for work

12pm at work

5pm leaving work

7pm recovering from work

12am thinking about work...

=Good times.


Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:39 | 4327376 NIHILIST CIPHER

TD    You may be right on that one, at least double from 12%.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:40 | 4327636 Zero Debt
Zero Debt's picture

Correct. SGS Alternate Unemployment is nearing 25% for the US.


The statistical fudging since 2009 is absolutely breathtaking. They are eliminating millions from the workforce with a stroke of a key. The official statistics are so full of lies that it is impossible to use them for economic forecasting or analysis.

The same goes for the inflation data.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:16 | 4327268 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

I didn't know that you could, "move the goalposts" in data in "free" societies?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:20 | 4327558 Gunga
Gunga's picture

That's some good shit you got there. :)

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:19 | 4327761 Oldwood
Oldwood's picture

When everything is free, numbers really don't matter anymore.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:16 | 4327270 lizzy36
lizzy36's picture

So the BLS went to the Federal Reserve school of we "can't forecast good"?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:16 | 4327273 Vice
Vice's picture

When will they include robot burger flipping robots in this stat? Surefire way to "fix it"

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:17 | 4327276 resurger
resurger's picture

Print those fucking Jobs Yellen.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:27 | 4327570 Emergency Ward
Emergency Ward's picture

Which weighs more, a pound of dollar FRNs or a pound of direct-deposit dollars?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:17 | 4327285 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Future updates:  cardboard to be considered housing and food.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:22 | 4327307 NIHILIST CIPHER

EB      +1    Good laugh to start off the day........but do we get condiments with that cardboard or would that be considered a vegetable?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:25 | 4327323 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Free mustard and ketchup packets at your nearest McD's, ketchup = fruit, mustard = hope.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:00 | 4327470 grunion
grunion's picture

I am cold and wet because I got hungry and ate my house. The notion is so surreal it will probably come to pass in this runaway train of a world where nothing surprises any longer.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:01 | 4327698 KnightTakesKing
KnightTakesKing's picture

Yes, BLS will say that a large cardboard box is a reasonable substitution for standard, unaffordable housing. Shanty Town coming to a neighborhood near you...

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:13 | 4327738 DOT
DOT's picture

Apple will bring the new i-cardboard to market at any momment ! This will bring a good sized adjustment to our inflation adjustment which then allows moar adjustments.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:15 | 4327746 Professorlocknload
Professorlocknload's picture

HHS will tout it as well. Lotta fiber in there.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:20 | 4327764 Oldwood
Oldwood's picture

Many would be surprised to know how much of their home is already cardboard.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:18 | 4327287 tokengator
tokengator's picture

"To the extent that the decline for the  youngest group is due to the time spent at school, it is possible that these workers will  show a higher labor force attachment once they are out of school"



lmao @ this conclusion in the fed link


Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:22 | 4327303 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

More student loans!  STAT!

And if they can't get a job after the B.S., just enroll in an M.S. program!

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:24 | 4327319 tokengator
tokengator's picture

No employers are impressed with your 1780's Womens literature degree? Well then you need an M.S. in 1780's Womens literature!!!

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:18 | 4327288 Spungo
Spungo's picture

The government's battle against child (and adult) labor appears to be working.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:20 | 4327299 TheRideNeverEnds
TheRideNeverEnds's picture

don't worry, we will just make up for it with volume.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:23 | 4327314 youngman
youngman's picture

I dont think they will go back and look at this....why try to learn when your paychecks keep coming .....

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:24 | 4327316 OutLookingIn
OutLookingIn's picture


Calculate the numbers the "old" way.

Real unemployment is north of 20%. Recovery? Not so much.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:24 | 4327321 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

It might have been a good idea to keep a couple of factories around....you know...just in case.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:02 | 4327485 ncdirtdigger
ncdirtdigger's picture

We (tree huggers) don't want those dirty things in our back yard.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:26 | 4327325 NIHILIST CIPHER

The IMF is sending out their minions to talk up a "Global Citizen Dividend". Translation: Welfare for everybody!   I don't trust it one bit.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 13:04 | 4327499 grunion
grunion's picture

Forgive my innocence, but just exactly how does one pull that off...Successfully.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:21 | 4327766 Professorlocknload
Professorlocknload's picture

They don't pull it off in one shot. They are doing it one special interest faction at a time, until the few remaining demand it. Follow the purchased votes. 

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 14:22 | 4327768 Oldwood
Oldwood's picture

Is that like a stupidity "bonus" or something?

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:27 | 4327328 Zymurguy
Zymurguy's picture

The ultimate goal here is to make the citizens of developed countries to mis-trust everything.  We are to lose faith in our currency, lose faith in banks, lose faith in our elected representatives, lose faith in our form of govt., lose faith in getting a job, lose faith in education, lose faith in morals, lose faith in family, etc. etc. etc. - the moment they determine we don't have enough trust... that's when they step in to crash all these systems in order to usher in a new form of govt. and control over all aspects of life.

Mon, 01/13/2014 - 12:37 | 4327371 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

Bingo. That's the ultimate objective. If they wanted to restore any faith at all they would start with a few perp walks. What we got instead was the outright criminal activity by the bankers and our "elected" officials. The fact that there is no accountability for anybody besides the ordinary citizen is a sure sign that they don't give a fuck what we think. They are going to loot the system until it crumbles, and once it does we will find ourselves under the thumb of a one world police state.

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