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Are Fewer People Participating in Asheville’s Labor Force?

One lasting impact of the most recent recession is that a lower proportion of working-age people are participating in the labor force. The labor participation rate is the percentage of persons ages 16 to 64 that are working. Nationally the rate has been dropping steadily for nearly two decades, with the recent recession accelerating the decline. The measure doesn’t specifically address the reasons behind the lower rates of labor force participation; but likely reflects the after effects of a rapidly changing economy coupled with a mismatch of worker skills and aptitudes in a new employment environment. While national labor force participation rates are available every month, local rates are only released annually, part of a wider community-level survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The most recent data for the Asheville metro is 2014.

In 2007 Asheville’s labor force participation rate peaked at 81.3 percent, representing 196,315 working people between the ages of 16 and 64 (see charts below). By 2012 that rate had slid to 73.5 percent. But because the overall size of Asheville’s population was expanding, the actual number of persons working still increased, up by 5,415. However, more strikingly, the number of working-age persons not working increased significantly …  READ MORE