Usually, when unemployment drops, the number of working Americans increases. But this time around, that hasn’t been true, notes Mark Pawlak, at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

The workforce has shrunk instead, for nine out of the last fifteen months. That kind of contraction is a historical anomaly—the last time it occurred was in 1952, when the population was shrinking as well. But today, the population is growing and more people aren’t looking for work who once held jobs. In fact, if the same portion of people were in the workforce as in 2007, holding employment steady, the unemployment rate would be almost thirteen percent, instead of the current reported number, 8.9%.

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