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A Closer Look at America's Labor Market

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A Closer Look at America's Labor Market

April 13, 2021

The labor market has still not recovered from the worst of the pandemic. The unemployment rate is inching back down, but economists also worry about the share of people in the labor force — a number that also falls during recessions. In some ways this indicator can be more telling; leaving the labor force can be longer-lasting or even permanent compared to being unemployed. People out of the labor force aren't necessarily looking for work or planning to return to it. Even before the pandemic there had been a trend of less educated Americans dropping out of work. The pandemic made it much worse, the labor force participation rate dropped 3 percentage points last year among high school graduates and has barely recovered. Some college graduates also left the labor force, but there has been some slight recovery. 

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We also see some big differences along racial lines. The labor force participation rate among Asian Americans has nearly recovered, while black Americans who left the labor force still have not returned. 

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Allison Schrager is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow her on Twitter here.

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