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Despite falling unemployment, the 2017 economy appears to be leaving a growing number of workers behind.

Expand chart
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Take for instance the gap between official joblessness and a much broader rate that includes people who have stopped looking for a job but say they still want one, along with part-time workers who want full-time jobs. Today this broader jobless rate is 8.4%, almost double the official 4.3%. The last time the official rate was this low, in 2001, the broader rate was almost a point lower.

Why it matters: A greater share of Americans are cut off from the work force today than in prior periods of low official unemployment.

In a research note to clients this week, Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics predicted that the main jobless rate will fall below 4% by the end of next year, which would be the lowest since December 2000. But he also noted that, according to recent survey data, business owners report a harder time finding qualified candidates for their job openings. That means that broader unemployment could remain stubbornly high.

Why aren't wages rising faster? Salaries began to rise faster in recent months, according to government data, but the movement should be greater when considering how low unemployment is. Economists expect wage growth to accelerate as joblessness continues to fall. But even if this occurs, it will be cold comfort to chronically jobless and underemployed on the fringes of the labor market.

Rising delinquencies: The struggles of poorer Americans can also be seen in the rise in subprime auto loan delinquencies in recent months, which are now well above pre-recession norms.

Then there is the Fed: Markets expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest interests rates at its meeting next week, and economic history shows that when the Fed starts hiking rates, recessions often follow, which, if one occurs, will be another blow to workers.

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.