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Data: FRED; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of Americans who aren't employed but aren't considered unemployed because they are not looking for a job skyrocketed to 103 million in April and still accounts for more than a quarter of the U.S. population.

Why it matters: The official unemployment rate has halved in recent months (to 7.9% in September from 14.7% in April) but the number of Americans out of the labor force has not fallen with it, and, in fact, rose in September back to nearly 101 million.

Between the lines: As Fed chair Jerome Powell noted in remarks to the National Association for Business Economics last week...

  • “A broader measure that better captures current labor market conditions — by adjusting for mistaken characterizations of job status, and for the decline in labor force participation since February — is running around 11%.”

The big picture: During the Great Recession the number of people not in the labor force increased by an average of 0.12%, or 96,000 people, per month, according to an Axios analysis.

  • During the month of April, the number increased by 7% and remains 6% higher than it was in March — an average of 713,000 people removed from the labor force each month.

The bottom line: The pandemic "has resulted in millions of workers falling through the cracks of the BLS methods and definitions," says Lou Brien, rates strategist at DRW Trading, in a note to clients.

  • "Therefore, millions of people exist in an employment statistics Neverland, where the bad news doesn’t seem quite as bad because of unusual circumstances created by the pandemic."

Go deeper

Fed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon

Fed chair Jerome Powell ahead of a congressional hearing in December. (Photo via Getty Images)

Interest rates will stay near zero for the foreseeable future, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said on Thursday.

Why it matters: It staves off concerns that the central bank is eyeing pulling back on its easy money policy if the economy recovers faster than anticipated.

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.