Nationally, the percentage of people participating the civilian workforce (EMRATIO) remains relatively low and stagnant, despite the Obama Administration's $787 billion Stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, ARRA). The current level remains roughly at its lowest in a generation--since the major recession during the early years of the Reagan Administration. One of the provisions of the ARRA provided up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits--nearly two years--which may have reduced job-seeking activities. Likewise, the uncertainty of threatened tax hikes and the costs of implementing the Affordable Care Act (i.e. ObamaCare) may have reduced hiring activity.
Similarly, the average or mean duration of unemployment (UEMPMEAN) remains well above previous levels, although it has dropped slightly since its record high in 2011. The average duration of unemployment remains well above--almost double--the previous-record levels set during the early 1980s.
Total non-farm employment (PAYEMS) continues to grow, although at a slower rate than after the last three recessions. Note the slope of the dashed burgundy lines in the chart below. The slope is shallower during the current recession, indicating slower job growth. Total employment has not yet surpassed the previous peak in 2008. During the current recession, total payroll fell below the trough of the previous dip for the first time since data was collected (1939).