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Quick Check-In on EPOP

Back in June of 2021, I wrote a piece about how the COVID crisis disrupted labor markets, and why we should rely more on the Employment to Population Ratio as opposed to the much misunderstood (or misinterpreted) Labor Participation Rate.

The results are interesting, but more than that, they show great progress.

Pre Covid 6/2021 2/2022

EPOP 61.1% 58.0% 59.9%

25-54 80.5% 77.2% 79.5%

16-19 31.5% 31.9% 32.2%

While the overall EPOP figure shows us inching towards the Pre-COVID level, there is still a ways to go, but that IS progress. While also still shy of the Pre-COVID benchmark, there is a solid gain in the Prime Age EPOP from June 2021, and the 16-19 cohort, a laggard from 2001 all the way through 2014 before finding a footing, shows continued improvement, once again over the Pre-COVID level.

There are still many shifting winds in the labor force, so a good deal of skepticism is warranted when analysts opine about these trends, but a few more months of this kind of progress should help restore some equilibrium back into the labor market we've been missing for two years.

A last quick look at the 65+ cohort:

There's been some talk from labor economists about people UNretiring from the workforce and getting back into the game. As many of you know, COVID made the retirement decision FOR a lot of over 65s when it hit, and that looked like a permanent phenomenon that would reshape the workforce for years to come.

Not so fast, pardner.

Back in June 2021, I remarked how that cohort's upward progress had stalled out, but here again, we're seeing the segment retrace from the Summer 2021 dip of 21.6% to 23.0%. While it hasn't narrowed the gap as much as the younger age cohorts, its certainly picked up.

We'll take another look at the end of the year and see where we wind up. Provided we haven't been blown up to kingdom come by that time.



Just a quick addendum to the above, Matty Yglesias posted this chart on wage growth on March 24th, and it shows the 16-24 cohort spiking sharply higher compared to older ones. The reason, it could be surmised, is due to minimum wage increases enacted by many states over the past couple of years, drawing more younger people into the labor force, as EPOP data shows.


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