Brad DeLong, among others, has been pointing out that, even though unemployment claims are down, a lot of this can be explained by people dropping out of the work force rather than the creation of more jobs. Kevin Drum points to a post by Kash of Angry Bear, who graphs labor force participation by both sex and education and finds that men and college graduates have declined in their level of participation while women have held steady and those with less than a high school education have been climbing steadily in their level of participation. Kash has some speculation about what this means but says he “honestly doesn’t know.” Kevin skips the speculation and simply notes that it’s interesting.

I’m having trouble deciphering the charts, since the Y axis on both of them is labeled on both the left and right side–and the numbers aren’t the same on each side. On the sex chart, the left side ranges from 65.5 to 68 and the right from 58.5 to 61 in increments of 0.5 on both sides. On the education chart, from 37 to 47 in increments of one and 77 to 82 in increments of two. I’ve emailed Kash to get clarification. Once I figure out what the actual numbers are, I may or may not take a crack at throwing out a harebrained answer to them.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Angry Bear says:

    I just sent you an email; here’s my take on the scaling (“LFP”=”Labor Force Participation”; “HS”=”High School”):
    In the first graph brown line is “all workers” and follows the left scale. So overall LFP fell from about 67.2% to a bit over 66%. Women, however, have been holding steady around 60-60.5%, based on the right scale.

    In the second graph, the brown line again follows the left scale, so LFP among HS or less increased from about 39.5% to 45% while LFP fell from about 81% to 78.5% for people with HS or more.


  2. James Joyner says:


    Thanks. That’s an unusual way to chart it. Usually, the scale is the same so that the tracking of the lines themselves means something. If you’ve got two different scales, it shows what men/women or HS/college are doing, but the visual comparison isn’t of much use.