Population, Employment, and Unemployment

Monthly Labor Review, May 2005 | Go to article overview

Population, Employment, and Unemployment


"The 'employment growth = population growth' estimation has typically provided a reasonable lower bound target for policymakers," writes Julie L. Hotchkiss in a Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Economic Review article on job creation. She notes, quite correctly, that if the policy goal is to keep the unemployment rate from rising, this target formulation is only necessary if the labor force participation rate is constant. According to her algebra, the necessary condition for a stable unemployment rate is that the percent change in the labor force must be equaled by the percent change in the number of people employed.

With that in mind, Hotchkiss explores the recent decline in the aggregate labor force participation rate. She writes that the labor force participation rate is generally a function of three factors: the age distribution of the population, the population's individual preferences, and the economic prospects they see in the labor market. Although she acknowledges that similar ups and downs in labor force participation have occurred in the past, she notes that "the recent decline, and even its acceleration, began well before the 2001 recession, suggesting other, noncyclical, contributors (such as changes in preferences) to the decline. …

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