Almost 20% of American Families Were Jobless in 2017

Prosperity did little to eradicate chronic joblessness last year, based on one measure of the U.S. labor market.

During a survey reference week last year, almost 20 percent of American families had no one bringing home a paycheck — even with the unemployment rate finishing the year at a 17-year low, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The proportion of families with an unemployed person declined by 0.7 percentage point to 5.8 percent last year. The remainder of American families with nobody working were retirees.

Total families 82,092 82,015
With at least one family member employed 66,023 66,027
As a percent of total families 80.4 80.5
With at least one family member employed full time 60,065 60,395
With no family member employed 16,069 15,988
As a percent of total families 19.6 19.5

Note: Numbers in thousands

The data tracked people who were unemployed, available for work at the time of the government’s survey and had recently attempted to find a job.

The number of families classified as having no member employed totaled 16 million last year, or 19.5 percent of all families, versus 16.1 million in 2016, or 19.6 percent.

The trend was most notable among families led by a woman, or 23.2 percent of that category, little changed from the prior year. Similar data show the category for men was at 15.4 percent, down from 16.4 percent in 2016.

The national unemployment rate dropped last year to 4.1 percent in December from 4.8 percent in January of the same year.

— With assistance by Alexandre Tanzi

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