State Labor Force Participation Rates

Labor force participation -- those either employed or looking for work -- has declined in nearly all states since the recession began.

The national labor force participation rate had fallen 2.4 percent to 63.6 percent as of May, the lowest level since 1981. Utah and other states have experienced significant shifts in recent years. Only Virginia's participation rate has increased since 2008.

Job losses account for part of the decrease, with some workers ending their search for work and exiting the labor force. Demographics also explain much of the rate changes. States with high populations of young people and those near retirement age tend to be more affected when the economy takes a hit.

Select a state below to view figures dating back to the start of the recession in December 2007:


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data current as of May 2012.

The following states experienced the largest labor force percentage decreases since the start of the recession:

State Current Participation Rate Change Since 12-2007
Utah 62.6% -5.7%
Delaware 57.3% -4.7%
Michigan 54.8% -4.5%
New Mexico 54.5% -4.4%
Georgia 58.3% -4.1%
Colorado 63.7% -3.8%
Florida 55.0% -3.8%
Alabama 53.0% -3.8%
Hawaii 58.3% -3.6%
South Carolina 54.0% -3.3%
Related Readings

Many states have experienced large drops in labor force participation since the recession began. View historical data for each state.

It’s good for our communities when toiling for a paycheck isn’t the only thing people do.