Bill McBride at Calculated Risk offers this comment on labor force participation rates:
Note: A significant portion of the decline in the unemployment rate from 10.0% in October 2009 to 7.6% in June 2013 was related to a decline in the participation rate from 65.0% in Oct 2009 to 63.5% in June 2013. If the participation rate had held steady, the unemployment rate would be 9.7% (assuming an increase in the participation rate with the same employment level).
Now the participation rate is forecast to mostly move sideways – or maybe even increase a little in the short term – so we probably shouldn’t expect a decline in the participation rate to help push down the unemployment rate over the next year or two. Instead, and decline in the unemployment rate will probably because of an increase in employment.
Longer term the participation rate will probably continue to decline until 2030 or 2040. I expect the rate to fall from the current 63.4% to around 60% in 2030 based on recent trends and demographics.