Employment figures released late last week contained a startling fact: labor force participation rates dropped to 62.7 percent, a 37-year low for the United States.
This helps explain why unemployment is currently down to 5.9 percent. The unemployment rate only views those who are actively seeking work as officially “unemployed.” In other words, if you get fed up with looking for work and drop out of the labor force entirely, you aren’t considered unemployed by the folks who track unemployment in the United States.
According to a new report released today by the Liberty Foundation, Arkansas ranked 49th out of 50 states at the end of 2013 in labor market participation. Once again: thank God for Mississippi!
The report, which measures labor market participation from 1999 to 2013, notes that Hispanics and African-Americans in Arkansas have both seen major drops in labor market participation in recent years. Labor force participation in Arkansas has dropped by 11 points for Hispanics in the past 5 years; African-American labor force participation in Arkansas has dropped by 6 points. Furthermore, Arkansas’s total labor participation rate is at its lowest point since 1999.
Matt Mayer, Chief Operating Officer of the Liberty Foundation said in an e-mail to The Arkansas Project:
Arkansas continues to struggle with being a landlocked state not on one of the major east-west, north-south trade routes, as well as the historical effects of slavery and substantial poverty. The solid gains Arkansas has made since the 1980s are impressive, but more must be done. We know the best route out of poverty is a job, so the best thing we can do to help Americans get back to work is to put in place policies that foster a strong economy like low taxes, affordable energy, responsible but efficient regulatory burdens, fiscal accountability, expanded trade, and global stability.
You can view the rest of the report here.