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February 16 2015

Criminal Records Could Be Having a Huge Impact on Labor-Force Participation

"For years, we've seen a decline in the labor force participation rate (LFPR). That's the number of people available for work as a percentage of the total population of working-age people.

JP Morgan's David Kelly has a post on the five reasons he thinks the LFPR is declining. ""While some of this decline may be cyclical, we believe most of it is structural,"" Kelly writes. ""In particular, the aging of the baby boomers, a rise in the number of Americans receiving disability benefits, and an increase in criminal records and background checks all seem to have played a role in depressing the employment rate."" If the LFPR really is being depressed by companies that won't hire people with criminal records, that cuts a huge chunk of the population off from a lot of job options they are more likely to get discouraged, and more likely to never return to the labor force if they are unemployed.

Just how many people does it affect? Based on recent Justice Department data the number of people with some sort of criminal record that may be impacted is now likely above 70 million when filtered for a number of factors. That count includes people with all types of criminal records, from violent felonies to minor charges. In some cases, even people who were arrested but never convicted still have a criminal record."