Explaining America's - and Utah's - shrinking workforce with a graphic

Published: Monday, April 8 2013 10:55 a.m. MDT

According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Utah has fallen to 5.2 percent, one of the lowest in the country.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Utah has fallen to 5.2 percent, one of the lowest in the country.

It is estimated that approximately 71,600 unemployed Utahns are actively seeking work. The national unemployment rate also posted a drop in April to 7.6 percent. Good news right? Not so fast. Even with the drop in the unemployment rate, the percentage of American adults who are either working or actively looking for work, known as the labor force participation rate, dropped to 63%, its lowest point since 1979, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to a report from governing.com in 2012, Utah saw the biggest drop in labor participation since the beginning of the recession in 2007 with a change of 5.7%.

Utah now sits at a participation rate of 62.7%.

Even with the drop in unemployment, it doesn't take a PhD in math to realize what this means. Thirty-seven percent of Americans - and Utahns - aren't in the labor force, the highest percentage since 1979. If American adults aren't employed, what are they doing? According to governing.com, Utah's decline can be pegged to the states young population who were particularly hard hit during the recession. Utah had a median age of 29.2 years in the 2010 Census, by far the lowest in the country.

While this may help to explain Utah, Bloomberg Businessweek published a chart this week that does a great job of explaining the trend nationwide.

So while the chart might look slightly different for Utah, with perhaps a higher percentage in the "Full Time College Students" or "Stay-at-home-parents" columns, Utah is dealing with many of the same issues as the rest of the country. An aging population, the trend of many unemployed workers to apply for disability as a way to make money, and of course, those who still want to work, but can't find work that meets their needs enough to rejoin the workforce.

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