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Winter 2005-06 Vol. 49, Number 4

Labor force

The labor force is the number of people aged 16 or older who are either working or looking for work. The labor force does not include active-duty military personnel or institutionalized workers, such as prison inmates.

The size of the labor force depends on two factors. The first factor is the size of the total population, which is determined by rates of birth, immigration, and death. The second factor is the labor force participation rate, which is the percent of the population that is working or is actively seeking employment.

These measures vary significantly by sex and by age, racial, and ethnic groups. Each group has varying birth and immigration rates, age distributions, and labor-force participation rates, and these variations change the composition of the labor force over time.

The charts show how the labor force is projected to change among age groups, among men and women, among racial groups—Asians, blacks, whites, and others—and among ethnic groups—Hispanics and non-Hispanics of any race. These are the categories used by the U.S. Census Bureau, which produces the demographic data on which BLS projections are based.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: March 13, 2006