The U.S. labor market continued to strengthen in 2018. The unemployment rate fell to a 49-year low in 2018, and employment continued to expand. The employment–population ratio increased over the year, while the civilian labor force participation rate changed little.

The Nation’s current economic expansion entered its ninth year in 2018. By the end of the year, the economy had grown for 114 months since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009—the second longest economic expansion on record.1 Reflecting this sustained period of economic growth, the U.S. labor market showed continued strength during the year. Steady job growth continued, and the unemployment rate (the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labor force) fell to a 49-year low. An indepth look into data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) revealed an array of labor market indicators pointed to continued labor market improvement during the year.2 The employment–population ratio (the number of employed people as a percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and older) continued to rise, and the number of long-term unemployed continued to decrease.3 The survey data also showed that workers in most demographic groups experienced rising employment and declining unemployment in 2018.4

This article describes several important developments or issues related to the U.S. labor market in 2018. It examines the employment situation of people by sex, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, age, educational attainment, veteran status, disability status, and nativity. In addition, the article summarizes changes in other CPS measures used to gauge the health of the labor market in 2018—such as involuntary part-time work, alternative measures of labor underutilization, unemployment by reason and duration, employment and unemployment by occupation, and median usual weekly earnings.

Employment situation

The unemployment rate declined to a 49-year low in 2018. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the jobless rate was 3.8 percent—the same rate recorded in the third quarter of 2018. This unemployment rate was the lowest since the fourth quarter of 1969.5 The number of unemployed people was down by 472,000 over the year to 6.1 million in the fourth quarter.

Employment grew by about 2.8 million in 2018, reaching 156.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Furthermore, the employment–population ratio increased in 2018, to 60.6 percent in the fourth quarter. The ratio has been on an upward trend since 2014.

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