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Employment under Obama increased. Here’s how.

Data can be deceiving. If you look at the unemployment rate from 1970, it’s exactly the same as the reported unemployment rate today: 4.9%. From that 47 year perspective, seemingly, nothing has changed.

But if you look close enough, the data tells a different story — one that is hotly debated by people with different backgrounds and beliefs across the country.

As we head into inauguration week, I wanted to take the time to educate myself on a topic that has always been front and center in our democracy: employment rates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics — the official fact-finding agency for the U.S. government that resides inside of the Department of Labor — started collecting data on employment, unemployment and labor participation as early as 1948.

In the first reported survey in 1948, 85.9M people out of a population of 146.6M had jobs, yet the calculated unemployment rate was 2.4%.

How does the math work out? Four words. Labor Force Participation Rate.

The labor force participation rate is the number of people “employed” or “actively looking for work.”

If you don’t look close enough and analyze from different angles, the data can tell another story that is often used to criticize our outgoing administration. That’s the story of a decreasing labor participation rate.

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Labor Participation Rate 2008–2016

Since 2008, the labor participation rate has decreased by 3%. This happens, primarily, when people get discouraged from finding new work and stop looking. And this descending graph has a lot of people in a tiff.

But looking closer, according to studies today, the number of employed individuals in the United States has dramatically increased since the early 70s from 82M people to over 254M today (an increase of over 209% in 50 years). And if you look deep enough and take the time to actually do the math, the number of people employed has even increased over the past 8 years.

Looking at the data from Obama’s term, the number of individuals employed increased from 232M in early 2007 to 254M today.

Accounting for the decrease in the labor participation rate, you find an increase of roughly 3 million people in new jobs.

How? In 2008, the United States had a population of roughly 304 million people. With a labor participation rate of 65.8%, roughly 200M people were working when Obama took office. Doing the same math eight years later, the labor participation rate was 62.7% with a population of roughly 324M. So he ended his term with 203M people participating in the job market.

Regardless of the numbers, jobs (or lack thereof) should be an all-partisan concern. They are linked to our health, future generation’s well-being and our GDP.

Last year, a few of us at Forge had a thesis that, in the future, work will consist of all employees having enough autonomy to pick their work hours, easily work multiple jobs to make a living wage and reach some semblance of work/life balance — if desired.

Over the next decade, we’re on a mission to give work/life balance to people in all walks of life and we hope you’ll join us.