Fox News host Jon Scott identified all retirees as those “who could be working” in order to disparage the labor force participation rate from April's positive jobs report.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) May 3 jobs report determined that the economy added 165,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate fell from 7.6 to 7.5 percent. BLS also reported that the labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 63.3 percent.
On Happening Now, Scott wondered of the labor force participation: “So, if this participation rate is at 63 percent, that leaves, what? Thirty-seven percent of the country who could be working, not working?” Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office under President George W. Bush, responded, “Yeah. If you look at the ratio of the number of people in the United States who are working, to the number in the United States, that's a low number. We're not taking advantage of the skills of our population.”
BLS determines the unemployment rate after conducting the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample of approximately 60,000 households where people are asked about the labor force status of household members.
The labor force participation rate that Scott referenced is the percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population who identified as either employed or actively looking for work. But here's where he dropped the ball -- the civilian noninstitutional population, as BLS defines it, includes all people 16 years of age and older, who are neither institutionalized (in a penal or mental institution) nor active duty military. So the 37 percent of people who self-identified as “not in the labor force” includes retirees and stay-at-home spouses, not generally groups “who could be working” or want to work.
Holtz-Eakin's claim was even more extreme, comparing the civilian labor force to the total population of the nation, which of course includes children.