The Economic Landscape
Next Page:
Unions and minimum wage

Labor force changes

The potential labor force continues to contain more and more high school and college graduates over time. While the growth in the share of the workforce with only a high school education has slowed in recent decades (having a high school degree has become near universal), the share of the workforce with a four-year college education continues to rise sharply.

A steady increase in the labor force participation rates of women has been a key trend in the nation’s job market since the 1950s. Growth in this trend was fastest between roughly 1960 and 1980, but it has continued to grow thereafter as well. At the same time, an  equally steady but less dramatic decline has characterized male labor force participation. The combination of these two trends has been a clear increase in the overall size of the U.S. labor force, as more and more adults choose to work over the years.

Get the data behind the charts.

Explore Our Charts



Select a subject or demographic

Interactive feature

Interactive feature promo image When income grows, who gains?

For the media

Economic Policy Institute Media Relations Department (202) 775–8810 |