A decade after the Great Recession of 2007-2008, the labor force continues to show signs of improvement, mirroring pre-Great Recession levels. The national unemployment rate has remained the same for the fifth month in a row at 4.1 percent, even as our economy added 313,000 new jobs in construction, retail, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities, and mining. The unemployment rate for young people between 16 and 24 ticked down by 0.2 percentage points and is now at 9 percent, continuing a long-time trend of a decreasing youth unemployment rate. For those between 25 and 34, the unemployment rate now sits at 4.4 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from January. Broken down by race, we can see positive signs, although black and Latino youth continue to experience a higher unemployment rate than their white and Asian counterparts. While most signs point to an improving labor outlook for most people, with a 0.1 percent increase in average hourly wages, there are little signs that the tax plan passed into law last year has dramatically improved the economy as promised.
In the month of February, the unemployment rate for white people between 16 and 24 moved up slightly to 8.6 percent. Meanwhile, for black people in the same age bracket there was a decrease from 17.8 percent to 14.1 percent. Latinos between the ages of 16 and 24 have an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, while Asians in that same age group have an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. President Trump for months has talked about working to improve the economic outlook of blacks and Latinos, but judging from unemployment numbers, little has been accomplished on this front. The white unemployment rate for young people between 25 and 34 is now at 4 percent, while the rate for black people in this age group is double at 8 percent. The Latino unemployment rate for those between 24 and 35 decreased by one percentage point and is now 4.7 percent, and the Asian unemployment rate moved slightly down to 3 percent.
While the unemployment rate is a good indicator of America’s work force, the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) gives us a wider picture by measuring all those working out of the entire population, not just those actively seeking work. During the last month the overall LFPR rose by 0.3 percentage points to 63 percent, while the LFPR for those between 16 and 24 rose by 0.2 percentage points to 56 percent. The LFPR for people between 24 and 35 rose to 82.4 percent. The LFPR for whites in this age bracket is now at 83.2 percent, for blacks its 83.1, for Latinos its 80 percent, and for Asians its 75.4 percent. All racial groups saw an increase in the LFPR. Although we are still in the first few months of 2018, the 16 to 24 age LFPR shows good signs as it is half a percentage point higher than the average LFPR for all of 2017. As can be observed seen on the chart below, the LFPR still remains below pre-Recession levels.