During the recession and the aftermath millions of people left the labor force for various reasons, but the participation rate has now seen three straight months of growth and reached the highest levels in a year. FiveThirtyEight staffer Ben Casselman looks at data from the Current Population Survey to explain that this surge in participation isn't a return of workers but rather new entrants entering the workforce.
Some of these entrants were not looking for a job when they were out of the labor force and others are without college degrees. However, one group is still struggling:
older, less-educated Americans, especially men. That group has seen a long-term decline in employment that stretches back well before the recession, and it has made little gain recently. It is also, of course, a group that has seemed to dominate the political debate in recent months because of the economic anxiety that has contributed to the rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.