Employment Numbers Mask Unpleasant Realities: The Ticker

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By Mark Whitehouse

The better-than-expected payroll and unemployment numbers in today's jobs report mask a less-encouraging trend: The share of the U.S. population with jobs is still declining.

The Labor Department reported that 58.1 percent of people who were 16 years of age or older, and who weren't in jail or in the military, had jobs as of July. That's the lowest point since the deep recession of 1983.

The falling employment-to-population ratio underscores some unpleasant realities. For one, the drop in the unemployment rate, to 9.1 percent from 9.2 percent, has less to do with people getting jobs than with people leaving the workforce. The Labor Department's household survey suggests an added 374,000 people weren't seeking work in July. (Only those who are actively seeking work count as unemployed.) Even the 114,000 jobs that nonfarm employers added to their payrolls in July isn’t enough to keep up with growth in the population, which the Labor Department estimated at 182,000.

Another unpleasant reality is the source of the decline in the employment-to-population ratio. Young and male blacks saw by far the largest drop. The ratio declined to 13.9 percent from 15.5 percent for blacks aged 16 to 19 years. For males 20 years old and older,  the ratio fell to 56.2 percent from 56.7 percent. The ratio for whites remained steady at 59.3 percent.

-0- Aug/05/2011 17:26 GMT