Recently, the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” Meg Kelly, awarded Ivanka Trump two Pinocchios for saying that people were returning to the work force. The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman took on the Post’s fact checker for pointing out that what was really being checked were opinions, not facts, and the only fact they commented on, they acknowledged to be true.
But it is possible to be even more definitive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment rates for different demographic cohorts. The data prove that Trump is correct.
Consider first her statement. “I think one of the tremendous opportunities that we’re seeing, because the economy is so strong, is that people who have been out of the work force are coming back off the sidelines. And this is something we are working incredibly hard to incentivize, because there is a large population of prime-age men and women who are out of the work force and who are now, slowly, starting to return.” …
… [E]mployment rates are up for each of the age cohorts that Trump talked about — “prime age” being traditionally defined as 25–54. In addition, they have risen for each of the major ethnic groups broken down by sex.
Although the unemployment rate declined between 2008 and 2016, had the labor-force-participation rate in 2016 been at its 2008 level, the unemployment rate would have been far higher. People simply dropped out of the labor force. The unemployment rate is measured as a share of people in the labor force, so when unemployed people drop out of the labor force, the unemployment rate drops — but the employment-to-population ratio does not.
Since then, unemployed people have reentered the labor force — driving labor-force participation up in virtually all groups. The difference is that many of those people have found jobs. The unemployment rate rose in June only because more people rejoined the labor force.