Why this month’s lower unemployment rate isn’t great news

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Vox – Timothy B. Lee 

Published: March 6th, 2015

Difficulty rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Credibility rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.


This article explains why a fall in the unemployment rate might not always be good news. It explains instances in which people are no longer referred to as unemployed and how that affects the unemployment rate. The article talks about the labor force participation rate. It is an essential clue as to why the unemployment rate is falling and whether it is good news.


Timothy B. Lee holds a master’s degree in computer science from Princeton. He began his journalism career writing for Ars in 2007. He then spent time at the Washington Post and Vox before returning to Ars in 2017. Today he covers technology policy, artificial intelligence, and the future of transportation.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: It is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics and serves as a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System .

Analysis of Potential Bias

The author used a very credible source to support some of his points. However, in some parts of the article, the author makes some predictions that are not backed by any economic experts and passes them off as facts.

Article Decryption

In February 2015, the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 5.7% to 5.5%. Usually, this would be great news. But actually, it is not always as good as it seems. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics observations, there are two ways to leave unemployment: get a job, or have so much trouble looking for a job that you stop looking for it.

The labor force participation rate – which is the share of all adults employed- fell slightly in February from 62.9% to 62.8%, suggesting that most of the falling unemployment rate was due to people that stopped looking for a job. Referring to a more comprehensive measure of unemployment is also very informative. The U-6 is an unemployment measure that includes everyone in standard unemployment but also underemployed people and people who would like a job but are not actively looking for one. In February, it fell from 11.3% to 11%.  So, the number of people who say that they want a job but do not have one is falling.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force unemployment rate in the U.S. has been falling since 2000, and long-term economic and demographic forces, particularly the aging of the population, may explain the recent decline in business cycles. However, a sufficiently strong economic boom should draw some people back into the labor force.

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