Labor force participation is static, a conundrum for the Fed.

By Jeanna Smialek

Millions of employees remain on the job market’s sidelines and are only slowly trickling back — posing a serious challenge for the Federal Reserve as its policymakers try to assess how far the United States economy remains from their full employment goal.

The labor force participation rate, a measure of how many people work or are actively looking for jobs, has been holding steady for months at 61.6 percent, down 1.7 percentage points from its February 2020 level.

Participation of people in their prime working years is ticking up gradually, rising to 81.7 percent in October from 81.6 percent in September, but that too remains depressed compared with the rate before the pandemic. In February 2020, 82.9 percent of those 25 to 54 years old were in the labor force.

Prime-age labor force participation improved slightly.

Share of those ages 25 to 54 who are in the labor force (employed, unemployed but looking for work or on temporary layoff)

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