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June 2004, Vol. 127, No. 6
The labor force and unemployment: three generations of change
Jessica R. Sincavage
T he post-World War II baby-boom generation—those born between 1946 and 1964—has had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on the American labor market. The flow of these workers into the labor force also has affected long-term trends in the statistics used to gauge labor market conditions, particularly the unemployment rate. The groups following the baby boomers, popularly known as generation X (those born between 1965 and 1975) and the echo-boom generation (those born between 1976 and 2001), have not yet had the same kind of effect on labor market statistics.
This article examines the impact of all three of these generations on the unemployment rate. The first section starts things off by summarizing earlier work by Paul O. Flaim1 on the influence of the original baby boom during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Then, employing Flaim’s methodology, the next section assesses the influence of the baby boom, as well as the impact of the subsequent generations, during the 1990s. Finally, the article contrasts the demographic characteristics of the baby-boom generation with those of the rising young worker groups of today. The data presented throughout are annual averages from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS).2
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1 See Paul O. Flaim, "Population changes, the baby boom, and the unemployment rate," Monthly Labor Review, August 1990, pp. 3–10.
2 The CPS is a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that provides information on demographic characteristics of the labor force and the employment status of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 16 years and older.
Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Gauging the labor
force effects of retiring baby-boomers.—Jul.
Labor force experience of women from ‘Generation X’—Mar. 2002.
Labor force projections: the baby-boom moves on.—Nov. 1991.
Population changes, the baby boom, and unemployment.—Aug. 1990
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