I was talking with my business partner the other day about the latest employment statistics released by the government and got to wondering: how many Americans are really working?

In our tax business we see people from all walks of life with all different economic situations.

A lot of people out there are struggling to make ends meet. So I got to thinking about the labor force participation rate, how many people were really in the work force, and so on.

Here’s what I found:

The current population of the US is estimated to be 321,729,000 people.

Of those, just under 65 million are children under 16. So that leaves 256,739,742 people 16 and over.

Of those 256 million, almost 30 million are in school of some kind. So that leaves 226,979,810 adults out of school in the potential work force.

Another 43 million are over 65 and older. Let’s just chalk them up to retired. That leaves us with a potential working population of 183,868,124.

So far so good. About half the people in the US are available to work to support children, students, and the elderly.

Now we get to the meat of the matter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that there are 95 million Americans 16 and older that are not in the labor force. Inside of that number we have to discount the students and elderly, so that leaves us with 22 million working age Americans not in school and not in the labor force.

So now we are down to 162,021,742 potential working adults.

Of those, 5.1% are unemployed. So that means an estimated 153,758,633 are working.

But then there is government work. About 22 million people work for the various levels of government in America. Let’s be generous and say that half of those would have real jobs like teachers and such if the government did not exist (even though every private school operates with far fewer personnel than public schools – especially in administration). The other half, the DMV workers, the congressional staffers, and all the rest of the bloat would be gone.

Discounting that half of the government workforce leaves us with 142,843,005 American adults with actually productive jobs supporting everyone else.

Which is actually good news. I expected the number to be far lower. Essentially 44% of the population has a real job that contributes to the nation as a whole.

So every person out there with a job is supporting himself or herself as well as 1.25 other people.

Considering that the average household size in the US is 2.54 people, that’s actually pretty close to having an average of 1 person per household working productively. Of course, the actual distribution of jobs per household is not uniform. Some households have nobody with a job and some have multiple jobs. But on average, a single worker is approximately supporting a single household.

All these statistics are based on government surveys, and I take them with a grain of salt. But I think we are at least in the ballpark of reality.

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