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The FRED® Blog

A closer look at labor in the U.S.

BLS state-level labor force participation rates


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects all kinds of data on the labor force, employed persons, unemployed persons, and unemployment rates. FRED now offers the BLS’s labor force participation rates for the individual 50 states and the District of Columbia. With this new addition to FRED, we can easily track a state’s labor force participation rate over time and compare performance across states.

By the way, the labor force participation rate is the number of all employed and unemployed workers as a percentage of the total population. By “unemployed,” we mean those actively seeking employment; and by “total population,” we mean the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older.

The first graph shows labor force participation rates for each state of the Eighth District (the region served by the St. Louis Fed) plus the rate for the U.S. overall since January 1976. In February, the national rate was 63.2%, its highest level since September 2013. Three states in the District had higher participation rates in February than the national average: Indiana (65.2%), Illinois (64.6%), and Missouri (63.6%). Mississippi (55.4%), Arkansas (57.9%), Kentucky (59.0%), and Tennessee (61.0%) had rates below the national average. While peer comparisons are important, it’s also valuable to consider performance over time.

The second graph shows District state performance for the past year—that is, the year-over-year change in the labor force participation rate for each month. The year-over-year participation rate for the nation has improved for the past six consecutive months. Indiana shows the strongest and most consistent improvement in labor force participation, with a year-over-year increase in each month. In contrast, Missouri and Mississippi have declining participation rates, with negative changes each month. Arkansas also has had mostly negative changes each month, but in March had its first year-over-year increase since January 2018.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for “Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate” and click “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” menu, use the “Add Line” tab to find seasonally adjusted state-level labor force participation rates (aka “LBSSA” in FRED). Add the corresponding series for each state: Arkansas (LBSSA05), Illinois (LBSSA17), Indiana (LBSSA18), Kentucky (LBSSA21), Mississippi (LBSSA28), Missouri (LBSSA29), and Tennessee (LBSSA47). For the second graph, take the first and use the “Format” tab to select “Bar” as the “Graph Type.” From the “Edit Line” tab, select “Change from Year Ago, Percent” for “Units.” Select “Copy to All.” Finally, select “1Y” in the options listed just above the graph to adjust the x-axis. The 102 state-level labor force participation rates (seasonally adjusted and non-adjusted series for the 50 states plus D.C.) can all be found in the corresponding release table.

Suggested by Kathryn Bokun and Kevin Kliesen.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CIVPART, LBSSA05, LBSSA17, LBSSA18, LBSSA21, LBSSA28, LBSSA29, LBSSA47


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