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  • There has been much fanfare today about how employment in the U.S. has recovered to its pre-crisis peak. So has it really?
  • True, the number of employees on nonfarm payrolls reached an estimated 138.5 million in May, exceeding the previous peak, which happened in January 2008.
  • Payrolls alone, however, offer an incomplete picture of the state of the labor market. As a share of the population, the number of people employed is still very low by historical standards -- though this measure is also influenced by the aging of the U.S. population, among other things.
  • So how far is the U.S. jobs market from normal? One way to get a sense is to look at employment among 25- to 54-year-old workers. As of May, it would take 4.6 million jobs to get the employment-to-population ratio for this group back down to its pre-crisis average. In short, there's a long way to go.