One way the government pretties up its monthly unemployment rate is to keep reducing the percentage of workers (age sixteen and above) it counts as part of the labor force. Since the sharpening of the capitalist crisis in recent years, that share has fallen from more than 66 percent in 2008 to 62.8 percent in August 2016.
That’s the lowest since 1977, when the overall rate (for both men and women, that is) was lower, since fewer than half of women sixteen and above were then in the workforce. As fights by women and other working people pushed back sex discrimination in employment, the female labor participation rate rose to more than 60 percent by the mid-1990s and remained roughly at that level until the 2008 crisis, falling below 57 percent since 2014.
The decline in the labor participation rate for men has been particularly sharp, falling from 87 percent in 1950, to 73 percent in 2008, to 69 percent in 2016. As for the stretches of time workers go with no job of any kind — an experience burned into the memories of working-class families — the duration averaged 13.5 weeks over the entire six decades between 1948 and 2008. Since then, the average has jumped two and half times, to nearly eight months.
— from The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record