US Gross Domestic Product growth was only half-a-percent for the first three months of 2016. Reportedly, the worst performance in two years produced little more than 14-million jobs. Slow growth, however, may also follow a trend of non-participation in the job market.

Falling unemployment numbers may not even reflect an actual addition or creation of jobs. Official numbers will only show those unemployed who are actively seeking employment, and do not reflect the number of ‘discouraged’ or ‘marginally attached’ categories who are not looking.

Consequently, an unemployment rate can be seen to drop, while employment does not technically increase. Unemployed workers no longer seeking employment move into the discouraged worker category, and are removed from the ‘unemployed’ statistic.  “They enter both the numerator and denominator of that calculation” according to Andy Ewing, writing on

The average unemployment rate in 2015 was probably closer to 10.4%, rather than the 5% or 6% cited in official statistics. That year also saw the lowest labor force participation rate since 1977, which was somewhere under 63%.

Labor participation may be shrinking partly due to three factors. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of citizens enrolled in post-secondary education has risen by around 52%, thereby delaying their entry into the labor market, causing job market stats to lag.  Another statistic, shows that, between 2000 and 2010, disability claims nearly doubled, which further increases the number of non-participants in the labor market. A final factor shows large numbers of aging workers are leaving the workforce, which is attributed to retiring baby boomers.  Some statistics indicate that trend as beginning even before the economic downturn.

The above reasons are considered by many to be major causes of reduced economic growth in the U.S.

sources consulted: Taylor Ewing
Bureau of Labor Statistics Soergel

Matt Griffith is a broadcaster for KMZU 100.7, send story ideas to [email protected]