The Labor Department announced on Friday the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009. Most big companies use software to screen resumes and ultimately move that unemployment number. These programs can be a big help for hiring departments, but a hindrance for job searches everywhere.
The U.S. population is growing. In normal times, the labor force — working or not — would be growing too. But these are not normal times, and the labor force is actually smaller than it was four years ago, meaning millions of people who should be there aren't.
The reasons people drop out of the workforce are myriad. People go back to school. Others have health issues or family priorities that keep them from looking for work. But some stop looking because they are discouraged.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg in for Scott Simon. In an encouraging sign for the U.S. economy, the Labor Department told us yesterday that the country gained 163,000 jobs in July. That was better than expected but not all signs are pointing up. In a separate government survey, the unemployment rate increased slightly to 8.3 percent. NPR's Chris Arnold is at a gathering of economists in northern Maine. He sent this report.