Even in the improving job market over the past few years, one number has remained troubling: the labor force participation rate continued to drop. But that may be turning around now. More than two million people have flooded into the work force since September, the biggest six-month gain in records going back to 1990, using data adjusted for changes in population estimates.
Even if participation just stays steady, that would be an improvement from recent experience. The labor participation fell from 66.2 percent in 2008 to a four-decade low of 62.4 percent last September.
Much of that decline was due to the retirement of baby boomers, a development that is continuing but one whose impact has been temporarily offset by the return of previously discouraged workers. The participation rate has now increased up to an even 63 percent.