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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.) 

Age Group 16-19 and 20-24 Trends

  • The participation rate in both age groups fell in the dotcom bust and never recovered.
  • They fell again the Great Recession and did not recover those losses in the next 12 years.
  • In the Covid recession, the ratio of age group 16-19 is recovering much faster than age group 20-24.

Age Groups 25-34, 35-45, and 45-54 Trends

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  • These age groups have the highest participation rates.
  • Losses were not as steep as the above age groups, but recovery rates are slow.

Age Group 55-59 

  • The participation ratio of this age group is lower than the previous three (25-54), but way higher than older age groups.
  • The Employment ratio of those aged 55-59 rose in the DotCom bust and did not fall until the middle of the Great Recession after which the trends are very much like age groups 25-54 but at a lower level.

Age Groups 60-64 and 65+

  • The employment ratios in both age groups rose or held steady in the DotCom bust and the Great Recession albeit with a steep dropoff in the actual ratios between the two.
  • Age group 65+ showed a stead increase in the employment ratio all the way through both recessions up to the start of the Covid recession.
  • The pattern of recovery for both these groups is similar in the Covid Recession.

Covid Recession Trends

Employment Population Ratios Jan 2020  to  2021-03

The steepest declines in the employment population rations on a percentage basis are in age groups 16-19 and 20-24.  

Employment Levels

Employment Change in Thopusands 2021-03

It's Been One Heck of a Recovery in Low-Paying Zoomer Jobs

The above chart ignores ratios in favor of actual employment levels. For discussion, as well as participation rate "what if" analysis, please see It's Been One Heck of a Recovery in Low-Paying Zoomer Jobs.