From mid-1987 until the Great Recession, the employment-to-population ratio of 25- to 54-year-olds usually ranged from 78.5% to 80%. It never fell below 78.2% even during the 1990-91 and 2001 slumps.
But now, three years after the recession ended in June 2009, that ratio stands at just 75.7%.
“This is probably a better measure than the unemployment rate,” said James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There are so many people dropping out of the job market and the unemployment rate, bad as it is, doesn’t pick that up. The ratio gives a better idea of employment opportunities.”