Positives can and should be gleaned from improved labor market numbers, but a return to pre-recession employment percentages do not indicate a complete recovery from the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.
Reintegrating workers who stopped looking or couldn't look for employment altogether is the next phase in the job market recovery, which Five Thirty Eight's Ben Casselman addresses in his column.
If you count yourself among this group, understand that you are not alone. In Sept. 2013, the Washington Post reported just 63.2% of the entire population was either employed or seeking employment.
Two-and-a-half years of hiring increases haven't necessarily changed that, either. Gallup's "real unemployment" metric estimates a 9.7% unemployment rate when factoring in those out of the workforce altogether.
The recession alone isn't responsible for the drop in labor participation, with Baby Boomers leaving the workforce for retirement. A 2015 Gallup survey reports a sharp increase in the percentage of Baby Boomers retiring at ages 67 (66%) and 68 (68%).
The positions they vacate are not going away -- not always, anyway.
Hirers face a talent gap, as illustrated in the Society of Human Resources' monthly Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report. The LINE's forecast points to growing job market numbers, as illustrated in robust growth early in 2016.
With more positions than candidates in some instances, the climate is much more friendly to candidates who left the market and want to re-enter.
For these job seekers, being able to highlight skills gained during an employment layoff is paramount. The significance of prior work experience in a job interview often comes down to the skills one cultivated in her/his previous position.
Emphasize any new software or web technology you mastered during an employment gap. Perhaps even your own challenges in the job search can be turned into a strength if you can present new ways for a prospective employer to reach out to candidates. This is a useful ability with a growing talent gap.
Bridging the employment gap can certainly be intimidating, but overcoming it is anything but impossible.