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December 1999, Vol. 122, No. 12
Labor force participation: 75 years of change, 1950-98 and 1998-2025Howard N Fullerton, Jr.
Over the 1950–98 period, most of the increase in the Nation’s labor force participation rate occurred between 1970 and 1990. (See table 1.) During this 20-year period, the participation rate (the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years of age and older either at work or actively seeking work) jumped from 60.4 percent to 66.4 percent. This increase coincided with the entry of the baby-boom generation into the labor force, and, most notably, a 14.2-percentage point increase in the aggregate labor force participation rate for women.
It is tempting to ascribe all of the historical increase in the aggregate labor force participation rate to the rising labor force participation rate for women. However, other factors also need to be considered, including the changing age distribution of the population stemming from the baby-boom phenomenon and the changing composition of the population by race and Hispanic origin.1
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1 The civilian labor force consists of employed and unemployed persons (excluding Armed Forces personnel) actively seeking work. Historical data for this series are from the Current Population Survey, 1947–98, conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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