Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Reasons people give for not being in the labor force, 2004 and 2014

January 21, 2016

People who are neither working nor looking for work are counted as “not in the labor force.” The proportion of the civilian working-age population who were in this group increased from 31.3 percent in 2004 to 35.0 percent in 2014. Over that 10-year period, the proportion of people who reported retirement as the main reason they were not working increased from 13.9 percent to 15.4 percent.

Proportion of the total civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older that was not in the labor force by reason, 2004 and 2014
Reason for not participating in the labor force 2004 2014


31.3% 35.0%

Illness or disability

5.5 6.5


13.9 15.4

Home responsibilities

6.0 5.4

Going to school

5.0 6.4

Other reasons

0.9 1.2

The proportion of the working-age population reporting school attendance as the main reason for being out of the labor force rose from 5.0 percent in 2004 to 6.4 percent in 2014. The percentage who cited illness or disability as the main reason increased from 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent over that same period. The proportion citing home responsibilities declined from 6.0 percent in 2004 to 5.4 percent in 2014.

These data are from the Current Population Survey and its Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC). The data are limited to people who were not in the labor force at any time during the reference year and the reasons they gave for not working. For more information, see the Beyond the Numbers article “People who are not in the labor force: why aren't they working?,” by Steven F. Hipple.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Reasons people give for not being in the labor force, 2004 and 2014 at (visited June 17, 2024).

Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics