Age a Decisive Factor in Labor Force Participation

The likelihood of someone not participating in the labor force, as well as the reason for not participating, often depends on a person’s age.

In 2012, 45.1 percent of those ages 16-24 were not in the labor force. Most of those in this group—80 percent—indicated that school was the reason they were not participating in the labor force. On the other end of the age spectrum, 59.5 percent of those older than 55 were not in the labor force in 2012; 80 percent cited retirement as their reason for nonparticipation. For those in the middle—ages 25-54—18.6 percent did not participate in the labor market in 2012, but their reasons varied: 31 percent cited disability, 46 percent said family, 9 percent said school and 7 percent cited retirement.

Since the recession began, participation rates have shifted somewhat across age groups. Nonparticipation rates in both the lower and middle age categories increased from 2007 to 2012—although more dramatically for the lower age group—but decreased slightly for those older than 55.