April 22, 1999
In 1998, about 67.5 million people were not in the labor force, meaning that they were not among the 131.5 million employed or the 6.2 million unemployed actively looking for work. The number of persons not in the labor force who said they would like a job declined over the year. Although other meanings are possible, the decline seems to be another indication of tightening labor market conditions.
Of those not in the labor force, about 4.8 million people indicated that they "want a job now". That total includes persons classified as discouraged workers, other workers marginally attached to the labor force, and others who expressed a desire for employment. The number of persons classified as such declined by 129,000 from 1997 to 1998. All of the decline was accounted for by persons who had searched for work in the previous year but were not currently looking for work. The number of discouraged workers was little changed at a little over 300,000 in 1998.
About 2.8 million of the 4.8 million people out of the labor force who want a job now were women in 1998; that total was down more than 100,000 from 1997. More than 2.1 million of those who want a job now were between 25 and 54 years old, and 1.9 million were between 16 and 24 years old.
These data on persons not in the labor force by desire and availability for work are produced by the Current Population Survey. More information may be obtained from "Job growth slows during crises overseas", Monthly Labor Review, February 1999. The labor force is made up of those employed and unemployed; persons are considered unemployed if they had no employment during the reference week of the survey, were available for work, and made specific efforts to find a job some time during the 4-week-period ending with the reference week. Discouraged workers are those persons who say that they want a job, were available to work, had searched for a job some time in the previous 12 months, but had stopped looking for work because they believed that there were no jobs available for them. Marginally attached workers are persons who have shown some labor market attachment by a previous job search, are still available for work, but are no longer looking for a variety of reasons in addition to discouragement.