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Labor force participation increased by education level for Americans born from 1980 to 1984

April 25, 2024

Individuals born in the early 1980s were employed for 76 percent of all the weeks from ages 18 to 36. They were unemployed for 5 percent of those weeks and not in the labor force (neither working nor seeking work) for 19 percent. As a group, individuals with higher educational attainment were employed for a larger percentage of weeks and unemployed for a smaller percentage of weeks than individuals with less education. The percentage of weeks spent not in the labor force decreased with increases in educational attainment.

Percent of weeks individuals were employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force from ages 18 through 36 in 1998–2021, by sex and educational attainment
Characteristic Employed Unemployed Not in labor force

Total

75.9 5.4 18.7

Less than a high school diploma

54.5 10.4 35.1

High school graduates, no college

73.4 6.9 19.7

Some college or associate degree

79.8 4.5 15.8

Bachelor's degree and higher

82.5 2.6 14.8

Men

79.5 6.0 14.6

Less than a high school diploma

65.4 11.5 23.2

High school graduates, no college

78.0 7.3 14.7

Some college or associate degree

85.1 4.3 10.5

Bachelor's degree and higher

83.8 2.6 13.5

Women

72.2 4.9 22.9

Less than a high school diploma

41.0 9.1 49.8

High school graduates, no college

67.3 6.4 26.3

Some college or associate degree

75.3 4.6 20.1

Bachelor's degree and higher

81.5 2.6 15.9

Among individuals from ages 18 to 36, men spent more time employed than women (80 percent compared with 72 percent) and less time not in the labor force (15 percent compared with 23 percent). This pattern was also seen at each level of educational attainment, although men with a bachelor's degree and higher spent only slightly more weeks employed than similarly educated women (84 percent and 82 percent, respectively).

Individuals born from 1980 to 1984 spent 70 percent of weeks employed from ages 18 to 23, 78 percent of weeks employed from ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent of weeks employed from ages 30 to 36. Men were employed a higher percentage of weeks than women within all age brackets.

Percent of weeks individuals were employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force from ages 18 through 36 in 1998–2021, by sex and age
Characteristic Employed Unemployed Not in labor force

Total

75.9 5.4 18.7

Ages 18 to 23

69.8 6.1 24.1

Ages 24 to 29

78.2 6.2 15.6

Ages 30 to 36

79.2 4.4 16.5

Men

79.5 6.0 14.6

Ages 18 to 23

70.9 6.6 22.5

Ages 24 to 29

82.0 6.9 11.1

Ages 30 to 36

84.6 4.8 10.6

Women

72.2 4.9 22.9

Ages 18 to 23

68.6 5.5 25.8

Ages 24 to 29

74.2 5.5 20.3

Ages 30 to 36

73.5 4.0 22.6

As these individuals aged, they generally spent less time out of the labor force: 24 percent of weeks from ages 18 to 23, 16 percent of weeks from ages 24 to 29, and 17 percent of weeks from ages 30 to 36. From ages 30 to 36, women spent about twice as many weeks not in the labor force (23 percent) as men (11 percent).

These data are from the National Longitudinal Surveys. To learn more, see “Labor Market Experience, Partner Status, and Health for those Born 1980-1984.” The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 consists of men and women who were born in the years 1980–84 and were ages 12 to 17 when the survey began in 1997. These individuals were ages 36 to 42 in 2021–22.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor force participation increased by education level for Americans born from 1980 to 1984 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2024/labor-force-participation-increased-by-education-level-for-americans-born-from-1980-to-1984.htm (visited June 14, 2024).

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