The unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.2% in May, holding above 8% for the 40th straight month, the Labor Department reported Friday. But actual employment rates of core working age Americans suggests the true jobs situation is even worse.
From mid-1987 until the Great Recession, the employment-to-population ratio of 25-54-year-olds usually ranged from 78.5% to 80%. It never fell below 78.2% even during the 1990-1991 and 2001 slumps.
But now, nearly three years after the recession ended in June 2009, that ratio stands at just 75.7%.
“Right now this is probably a better measure than the unemployment rate,” said James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There are so many people dropping out of the job market and the unemployment rate, bad as it is, doesn’t pick that up. The ratio gives a better idea of employment opportunities.”