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Employment Population Ratios

The employment population ratio is the percentage of the people in an age group divided by the noninstitutionalized population of that age group.

(Employed ÷ Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population) x 100. 

The civilian noninstitutional population refers to people 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (penal, mental facilities, homes for the aged), and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

Seasonal Adjustments 

My chart contains a strange mix of seasonal and non-adjusted numbers. 

That's because the BLS does not provide seasonally-adjusted employment numbers for age groups 55-59, 60-64, and 65 and older. 

I did not use unadjusted numbers across the board because there are wild month-to-month unadjusted swings in age groups 16-29 because of school and holiday employment. 

Generations Explained

  • Zoomers or Gen Z are those born between 1997 and 2015. This puts the age group for Gen Z'ers in the range of 6-24 years old in 2021.
  • Millennials or Gen Y, were born between 1981 and 1994/6. They are currently between 25 and 40 years old (72.1 million in the U.S.)
  • Gen X are those born between 1965 and 1979/80 and is currently between 41-56 years old (65.2 million people in the U.S.)
  • Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They're currently between 57-75 years old (71.6 million in the U.S.) 

Zoomers Hardest Hit

Zoomers aged 16-25 were the hardest hit in the pandemic having the steepest drops in employment in the initial stages of the pandemic. 

This makes sense as they are the group most likely to be working in low-paying restaurant  and service jobs that bore the brunt of the layoffs.

From a time factor, they had the least work experience as well making them the first to be laid off.

Boomer Comparison

Baby Boomers are currently 57-75 years old. They were the least impacted by the pandemic. 

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Millennials aged 25-40, and Generation X aged 41-56 were impacted more than Boomers but less than Zoomers. 

Employment Population Ratios 1999-Present

Employment Population Ratios Jan 1999 to  2020-02

Great Recession

Those aged 65 and older sailed through the Great Recession. Those aged 16-19 and 20-24 were clobbered. 

In 2008, millennials were between 12 and 27 making them the hardest hit group in the Great Recession.

Overall Trends

The participation rate in age group 16-19 fell in the dotcom bust and never recovered.

It fell again the Great Recession and did not recover those losses in the next 12 years. 

And for this age group we have another steep plunge in the participation rate that has mostly but not entirely recovered.

Some of that can be explained by kids going to college.

Spotlight Age Group 35-45

Take a look at disturbing trends in age group 35-45 in yellow. 

The trend is towards lower and lower participation rates where the gains lost in recessions are never fully recovered. School does not explain this trend.

In a following post I will look at actual employment levels.