U.S.: Civilian Labor Force, by year
YearCivilian labor force,
in millions
  • Region: United States
  • Time period: 1990 to 2023
  • Published: Jan 2024

Data Analysis and Insights

Updated: Apr 2, 2024 | Published by: Statistico

Growth in Civilian Labor Force from 1990 to 2023

Between 1990 and 2023, the civilian labor force in the U.S. saw an increase from 125.84 million to 167.12 million, marking a growth of over 41 million individuals. This period showcases a continuous upward trend, reflecting the economy's ability to generate employment opportunities and accommodate a growing population.

Recent Trends in Labor Force Expansion

The most significant yearly increase in the civilian labor force over the last decade occurred between 2022 and 2023, with a jump of approximately 2.83 million individuals. This spike suggests a robust recovery or expansion phase in the job market, possibly driven by factors such as economic policies, labor market reforms, or post-pandemic recovery dynamics.

Decade-wise Analysis of Labor Force Growth

Analyzing the growth in decades, the period from 1990 to 2000 witnessed an increase of approximately 16.74 million in the civilian labor force. The subsequent decade, from 2000 to 2010, saw a slightly lower growth, with an increase of about 11.31 million. The decade from 2010 to 2020 further experienced a deceleration in growth, adding around 7.85 million individuals. These figures highlight a gradual deceleration in the rate of labor force growth over the last three decades.

Stability Post-Recession Period

Following the 2008 economic recession, the civilian labor force demonstrated remarkable resilience and stability. From 2008 to 2013, the labor force numbers showed minor fluctuations but essentially hovered around 154 million, indicating the labor market's capacity to absorb economic shocks over a medium-term period.

Yearly Fluctuations in Labor Force Participation

Yearly changes in the civilian labor force reveal fluctuations that may correspond to economic cycles, policy changes, or societal trends. For example, the years following the 2008 recession until 2013 show minimal growth or slight reductions, possibly reflecting the aftermath of the economic downturn. Conversely, recent years display a more pronounced annual growth, suggesting a shift towards stronger labor market conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much did the civilian labor force in the U.S. grow from 1990 to 2023?

The U.S.'s civilian labor force grew by over 41 million, from 125.84 million in 1990 to 167.12 million in 2023.

When did the most significant yearly increase in the U.S. civilian labor force occur over the last decade?

The most significant yearly increase over the last decade occurred between 2022 and 2023, adding about 2.83 million individuals.

Terms and Definitions

The civilian labor force refers to individuals, aged 16 and older, who are either employed or actively looking for work, excluding those in the military and those institutionalized, such as in prisons or retirement homes.

A person is considered 'employed' if they have worked for pay or profit during the survey's reference week, or if they did unpaid work for 15 hours or more in a family-owned enterprise. People temporarily away from their jobs, like on sick leave or vacation, are also counted as employed.

A person is considered 'unemployed' if they are actively looking for work but having no employment. Unemployed individuals are part of the civilian labor force, with their numbers directly affecting the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate is a measure of the prevalence of unemployment and is calculated as a percentage by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by the total civilian labor force.

The labor force participation rate is the portion of the working-age population (typically aged 16 to 64) that is part of the civilian labor force, either by being employed or actively looking for work. It is a measure of the active segment of an economy's labor force.

Discouraged workers are part of the group classified as “marginally attached to the labor force". They want to work and may have looked for a job in the past 12 months, but they are not currently making efforts to find a job because they believe no jobs are available for them. These individuals are not counted as part of the civilian labor force.

Nonfarm payroll is a term used in the U.S. to refer to any job with the exception of farm work, unincorporated self-employment, and employment by private households, nonprofit organizations, and the military and intelligence agencies. Nonfarm payroll statistics provide insight into the state of the economy and the labor force's health.
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