After peaking during the last year of the Clinton administration the participation rate falls to its lowest level since 1988.
The share of the working-age population working or actively seeking a job — known as the participation rate — fell to 65.8 percent in January, the lowest reading in 17 years, according to numbers collected by the Labor Department.
Mark Zandi, an economist at Economy.com, who has done some of his own research, found “participation rates have declined the most in parts of the country where manufacturing is important and has just been pummeled,” such as the Midwest, parts of the South and the Northeast.
Other factors behind the drop in the rate cited by economists and employment experts include: people abandoning job searches because they can’t find a job at the pay level they want; younger people leaving a job to go back to school; and couples choosing for any number of reasons to have a single breadwinner.
For women, the participation rate has slipped after peaking in April 2000. Meanwhile, the rate among younger workers has been declining over the last five years, while the rate for workers 55 and older has been rising — perhaps reflecting older workers’ concerns about building a nest egg as they look ahead toward retirement, analysts said.