160,056,000: Number of Americans in Labor Force Hits Record High

More jobs created than expected, Americans not participating not in labor force dropped by 176,000

Veterans attend a job fair
Veterans attend a job fair / Getty Images
March 10, 2017

The number of Americans either working or looking for work in the past month hit a record high of 160,056,000, the first time this number surpassed the 160,000,000 mark, according to numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last month, there were 159,716,000 Americans in the labor force.

There were 340,000 more Americans who joined the labor force in February, while 176,000 left. The number of Americans not participating in the labor force declined from 94,366,000 in January to 94,190,000 in February. The bureau counts those not in the labor force as people who do not have a job and did not actively seek one in the past four weeks.

The labor force participation rate, which is the percentage of the population that has a job or actively looked for one in the past month, increased from 62.9 percent in January to 63.0 percent in February.

In addition to more individuals joining the labor force this month, the number of unemployed individuals declined by 107,000 Americans, leading to a decline in the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate for all Americans declined from 4.8 percent in January to 4.7 percent in February. This measure does not account for those individuals who have dropped out of the labor force—it simply measures the percent of those who did not have a job but actively sought one over the month.

The "real" unemployment rate, otherwise known as the U-6 measure, was 9.2 percent in February, which declined from 9.4 percent in the previous month.

There were 5,704,000 Americans working part-time in February who would rather have a full-time job but cited economic reasons for not having such employment. This number declined by 136,000 over the month.

According to the bureau, involuntary part-time workers are "persons who indicated that they would like to work full time but were working part time (1 to 34 hours) because of an economic reason, such as their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time jobs."

Overall, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 235,000 in February, which beat expectations that only 190,000 would be created.

Following the release of the jobs report, the Dow futures increased by 100 points.

"This is one of the tightest labor markets I have seen in the 43-year history of National Federation of Independent Business' survey," said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. "Overall though, the job numbers in the small business sector are solid, and owners are still showing that they are confident in the future of our economy."

"Small businesses are happy so far with the new management team in Washington," said National Federation of Independent Business' Juanita Duggan. "Confidence remains high, but if the administration and Congress fail to address some of the small business community's biggest concerns, like tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare, we may see our optimism numbers change."

Published under: Jobs , Unemployment