Labor Force

By Isaac Cohen*

                  The positive employment figures released last week by the Labor Department contained a cause for concern. In the United States in April, the labor force participation rate, the percentage of persons 16 years or older who are employed or looking for work, fell for the second consecutive month to 62.8 percent, from 63 percent in March. This contributed to push down unemployment to 3.6 percent, the lowest rate in 50 years. But the participation of the population in the labor force also reached the lowest level since the early sixties. Therefore, the number of persons in the labor force today is 2.3 million lower than the level reached 20 years ago.

                  After lagging for nine years, in April, average hourly earnings increased 3.2 percent from a year earlier, the ninth consecutive month of an increase of more than 3 percent. As the labor market tightened, faster job and wage growth benefitted those with less education, the bottom of the labor force, employed mostly in agriculture, construction and entertainment. Salaries in these sectors have benefitted from increases in the minimum wage at the state and local levels, above the federal level, stuck at $7.25 an hour for the last 10 year and, contributing to a national average in 2019 of almost $12 an hour.

                  It is too early to know if this improvement in the minimum wage will contribute to pull more workers into the labor force, to compensate for the low birth rate and the aging population, the retirement of the baby boomers and the shortage of immigrants.

  *International analyst and consultant, former Director ECLAC Washington. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio, UNIVISION, TELEMUNDO and other media.

About Ramón Jiménez

Ramón Jiménez, Managing Editor de MetroLatinoUSA.Com (MLN). Graduado de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad del Distrito de Columbia (UDC). Email: [email protected]

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