U.S. labor force participation has been having a good run, but it slipped in October -- possibly as demographics exacted a toll.
The participation rate had been trending up as people moved into the labor force and as workers with jobs hung onto them.
Last month, however, the rate fell as 5.2 million employees dropped straight out of the labor market -- the biggest number since the series started in 1990.
That could have been a hurricane-induced change that will reverse as the effect of storms that slammed the southern U.S. abates. Or it could have happened as workers returned to school or retired.
These are straight numbers and not levels, but the share of employed people leaving the labor force as a portion of the total U.S. civilian population is also at its highest since 2001.
Economists expect the labor force participation rate to trend down gradually as baby boomers age and demographics come to bear, though the labor market has been so strong that that hasn’t happened lately. One reading doesn’t make a trend, but October could be the leading edge of a reversal.
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