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NOTD - 20 Months

The Balance

That’s how long it’s been since we’ve seen this many Americans interested in working, suggesting some life in the labor market after a mixed employment report for November.

The so-called labor force participation rate, which is the percentage of people working or actively looking for work, edged up 0.2 percentage points last month to 61.8%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday. Part of the gain was attributed to a 594,000-person increase in the labor force from October.

That doesn’t sound like a big move, but it was enough to move the rate above its pandemic range, which topped out at 61.7% four times since April 2020. It could be a sign some of the “missing workers” that have hampered the recovery in the labor market are finally coming out of the woodwork, according to some economists.

“The addition of almost 600,000 people to the labor force in November is very encouraging, suggesting that the stronger job market and the gradual ebbing of the pandemic could be drawing more people back into the workforce,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, in a commentary. 

The mixed nature of the report released Friday had some puzzling over just what to make of it. In addition to the improvement in the labor force participation rate, the unemployment rate showed some improvement, dropping to 4.2% from 4.6%. But the increase in nonfarm payrolls was just 210,000, less than half October’s number.

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Medora at medoralee@thebalance.com.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Employment Situation Summary Table A. Household data, seasonally adjusted - 2021 M11 Results.”

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Labor Force Participation: What Has Happened Since the Peak?

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment Situation Summary - 2021 M11 Results.”

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