After a few months of the labor force participation rate (LFPR) showing what was hopefully early signs of strength, it dropped back down to its low of the recovery in March. The biggest drops in labor force participation in March were among young workers; the LFPR of workers under age 25 dropped 1.3 percentage points, from 55.6 percent to 54.3 percent. (However, these series are erratic due to small sample sizes, and the April decline in the under-25 LFPR was simply a reversal of its jump up in March.) The biggest drop in LFPR in April was among men under the age of 20. To my knowledge, data on unemployment insurance exhaustions by age don’t exist, but it is unlikely that young workers are a big proportion of exhaustions. This means that the April drop in labor force participation is likely not being driven by the expiration of federal unemployment insurance benefits last December as some have suggested, but simply by the weak labor market.
There is currently an all-time-high of 6.2 million missing workers (potential workers who are neither working nor actively seeking work due to the weak labor market). Almost a quarter of them (1.4 million) are under age 25. The figure below shows that the unemployment rate for young workers would be 18.4 percent instead of 12.8 percent if the missing young workers were in the labor force looking for work and thus counted as unemployed.
For a complete picture of the labor market prospects facing the new cohort of young adults graduating from high school and college this spring, see the Class of 2014 report released yesterday. It includes, for example, a detailed discussion of the finding that there is little evidence that today’s missing young workers are “sheltering in school”.