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No specific statistic perfectly matches Biden’s phrasing, but several broad labor market measurements can serve as approximations. In each case, the current statistical level of working Americans trails the record, although two measurements that look only at Americans ages 25 to 54 come close to setting a record.
One narrower measure that looks just at working-age women has set a record under Biden.
President Joe Biden recently visited Milwaukee to tout "Bidenomics" — the economic policies he’s instituted during his two and a half years in office, which he says have produced significant employment gains.
"We’ve recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic, and we’ve added millions more," Biden said Aug. 15 during a visit to Ingeteam Inc., an electronics producer serving the energy sector. "People are coming off the sidelines and getting back into the workplace. Remember, a while there they were saying, ‘Well, Biden is just allowing people not to work and get paid.’ Guess what? A higher percentage of American workers are working today than ever before."
Biden is correct about the United States having surpassed the pre-pandemic number of jobs during his tenure. But Biden’s statement that "a higher percentage of American workers are working today than ever before" is murkier, because there is no single statistic that correlates to his exact phrasing.
When we looked at several broad statistics that offer approximations of what Biden was claiming, we found that none are at record levels. One narrower statistic — the percentage of employed women ages 25 to 54 — has hit a record in recent months.
Here are some relevant statistics that fit with Biden’s statement.
This statistic takes the number of people employed and divides it by those who are civilians and noninstitutionalized to produce a percentage of the population that is employed. (People who are considered institutionalized, and thus excluded from this statistic, include those in prison and nursing homes.)
By this measure, employment not only trails the record (set in 2000) by a significant amount but hasn’t even climbed back to pre-pandemic levels.
This statistic takes the total number of people who are employed, adds them to the number of people who are unemployed but are actively seeking work, and divides the sum by the civilian, noninstitutionalized population.
Like the employment-population ratio, this statistic is also well short of the historical high (also set in 2000) while also below the pre-pandemic level.
The federal government also calculates some subcategories of the labor force participation rate. One includes only people ages 25 to 54. Many economists like this statistic because it neutralizes demographic changes that can skew broader employment calculations.
As the baby boomers age, more retire every year. This means that they are counted in the civilian noninstitutionalized population even though, over time, they are increasingly unlikely to work. Therefore, even if everything else stays the same, the baby boomer population’s aging can send overall labor force participation downward.
Looking only at people 25 to 54 skirts this problem because it focuses on "working-age" Americans.
Using this statistic, Biden’s accuracy still falls short.
In July 2023, the most recent month with available data, 83.4% of working-age Americans were in the labor force, meaning they were employed or unemployed and actively seeking work. That’s high by historical standards, but lower than the record of 84.6% set in 1999.
A related statistic — and one the White House cited when we asked for Biden’s evidence — looks at the employment-population ratio for the same 25-to-54 working-age range. It shows a similar pattern, and it doesn’t work for Biden’s statement, either: The statistic hit 80.9% in July 2023, just below the record of 81.9% set in 2000.
The unemployment rate is likely the most familiar statistic to noneconomists. This statistic is also favorable by historical standards — the current 3.5% unemployment rate is near a 50-year low — but the record low was 2.5% in 1954.
The one statistic for which Biden can claim a record on his watch is narrower: the employment-population ratio for women aged 25 to 54.
In July 2023, this ratio hit 75.1%, or slightly above the pre-pandemic level of 74.6% and narrowly above the previous record of about 75% in April 2000.
But Biden didn’t refer to this cut of data in his Milwaukee speech.
"It’s a niche record," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank in Washington, D.C.
Biden said, "A higher percentage of American workers are working today than ever before."
No specific statistic perfectly matches Biden’s phrasing, but several broad labor market measurements can be used as approximations.
In each case, the current level of these statistics trails the record, though two measurements that look only at Americans ages 25 to 54 come close to a record.
One narrower measure that looks just at working-age women has set a record under Biden, but he was speaking more broadly in his Milwaukee remarks.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
Joe Biden, remarks in Milwaukee, Aug. 15, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, employment-population ratio, accessed Aug. 17, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, labor force participation rate, accessed Aug. 17, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, labor force participation rate for ages 25-54, accessed Aug. 17, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, employment-population ratio for ages 25-54, accessed Aug. 17, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, unemployment rate, accessed Aug. 17, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, employment-population ratio for women ages 25-54, accessed Aug. 17, 2023
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump vastly underestimates job gains under Joe Biden," Aug. 8, 2023
Statement to PolitiFact from the White House, Aug. 18, 2023
Email interview with Gary Burtless, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Aug. 17, 2023
Email interview with Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, Aug. 17, 2023
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