Keith Hall

Keith Hall

  • Senior Research Fellow

Keith Hall is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  From 2008 until 2012 he served as the thirteenth Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  In this role, he headed the principal fact-finding agency in the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.  The BLS is an independent national statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, business, and labor.

Dr. Hall’s research interests include labor markets, labor market policy, and economic data.

From 2005 to 2008, Dr. Hall served as Chief Economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers where he analyzed a broad range of fiscal, regulatory and macroeconomic policies and directed a team that monitored the state of the economy and developed economic forecasts.  Prior to that, he was Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Commerce where he provided technical advice regarding the scope, emphasis, and state of the economic and statistical activities of the Bureau of Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, served as a special advisor to the Secretary of Commerce, and regularly conducted/supervised research projects on a wide range of economic and policy issues.  Dr. Hall also spent ten years at the U.S. International Trade Commission where, among other things, he conducted and led independent studies related to international trade and trade policy.  He has been on full time faculty in the Economic Departments at the Universities of Arkansas and Missouri, and has published a number of papers on international trade and international trade policy.

 Dr. Hall received his B.A. degree from the University of Virginia and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from Purdue University.

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Working Papers


Keith Hall | Feb 07, 2014
The aging of the population is not the sole contributing factor in the decline in labor force participation since 2007, contrary to what some have suggested. The participation rate has declined for every age bracket below 54 years old. The effects of these declines can be seen in the figure below. For each age range, we have calculated how much the labor force would need to increase to return to average participation rates in 2007. There would be an additional 4.4 million people under the age of 55 in the labor force today if the average participation rate reverted to 2007 levels.
Veronique de Rugy, Keith Hall | Dec 17, 2013
The four and a half years since the Great Recession of 2008 could be called “the Dismal Recovery.” The most widely cited sign of progress toward a healthy economy has been the declining unemployment rate; however, the fall in the unemployment rate has largely been due to a shrinking labor-force participation rate rather than strong job growth. When you look at a broader range of labor market data, as in this week’s chart, the slow rate of progress toward recovery becomes apparent.
Keith Hall, Robert Greene | Nov 25, 2013
In 2012, public-sector employment made up more than 16 percent of the US labor market. Direct government employment fails to capture the full impact of government spending on state labor markets. Using federal contract data obtained from, we estimated the percentage of private sector jobs actually financed by federal contract dollars in each state. The following four maps visualize our findings.
Veronique de Rugy, Keith Hall | Nov 18, 2013
This week’s charts use data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics to analyze GDP growth and payroll changes before and after the government shutdown that occurred from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996.
Veronique de Rugy, Keith Hall | Aug 05, 2013
This week’s chart shows the share of part-time versus full-time job gains since December 2012. Data from the most recent monthly survey of households from the Department of Labor show that the economy added 288,000 full-time jobs since last December. While this full-time jobs number might seem like a lot, it pales in comparison to the 692,000 part-time job gains during this time.
Veronique de Rugy, Keith Hall | May 07, 2013
Unsurprisingly, the slow recovery has been particularly hard on families. New data released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 8.4 million families had at least one unemployed member. That makes the family unemployment rate 10.5 percent, well above the average national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent in 2012. Some 20 percent of families had no one working in 2012, a number that includes both the unemployed and looking for work and the jobless and not looking for work. The statistics are grim when we look at families with children under 18 years old, where 12.2 percent have no one working.
Veronique de Rugy, Keith Hall | Feb 05, 2013
Once the recession ended, we should have seen economic growth continue to accelerate after the 2.4 percent growth in 2010. Instead, economic output has been more sluggish after each year since 2010. These charts, using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), clearly show that we are not really in an economic recovery.
Veronique de Rugy, Keith Hall | Dec 11, 2012
The minor improvement in the unemployment rate, however, is entirely due to shrinking labor-force participation. The labor-force disagreement has lowered the participation rate by 0.4 percentage point this year alone and affects pretty much every category of worker with the exception of 55 and older. So, while we have had some encouraging hiring this year, this drop in labor-force participation exaggerates the progress shown in the drop in unemployment rate.

Policy Briefs

Testimony & Comments

Keith Hall | Apr 07, 2014
This comment addresses Environmental Protection Agency’s request for advice in “developing an ‘analytic blueprint’ of materials on the technical merits and challenges of using economy-wide models to evaluate the social costs, benefits, and economic impacts associated with EPA’s air regulations.” The agency plans to present these materials to a new Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel with “expertise in economy-wide modeling.”…
Keith Hall | Apr 01, 2014
Raising the rate of labor force participation needs to be a central focus of federal policymakers, in order to strengthen our economy and raise the prospects of low-income Americans. To do this, we need to make it easier, not harder, for companies to increase hiring. We also need to encourage individuals to re-enter the labor force, not discourage them. Government assistance for the jobless is important, but the re-employment of the jobless is what we need to reduce poverty and lower income inequality.
Keith Hall | Jul 09, 2013
The biggest problem with the US labor is a lack of economic growth. And according to our biggest job creators, small business owners, government is playing a big role in holding back the economy.
Keith Hall | Apr 24, 2013
Two significant problems have become evident through this lengthy period of slow job growth. First, there has been an unprecedented disengagement from the labor force with current participation at its lowest level in almost 35 years. This means there are currently 102 million jobless people in the United States, but less than 12 million are still actively looking for work and therefore counted as unemployed. Second, the number of long-term unemployed is at a record high. They currently represent over 4.6 million people, and the long-term unemployment rate (the share of the labor force unemployed for over six months) remains well above historical levels at 3.0 percent.

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

By Keith Hall |
Apr 04, 2014

The US economy added 192,000 jobs in the month of March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate ticked up 0.2 points to 63.2 percent, though it remains well below pre-recession levels.
By Keith Hall |
Mar 21, 2014

The most closely watched and widely cited economic statistic in the world may be the unemployment rate. It first came into use in the 1930s, and its definition remained basically unchanged since. However, there is a growing realization that it has become an unreliable economic indicator, and it is time to find a better way to measure the health of the U.S. labor market.
Mar 20, 2014

Continuing to raise the minimum wage would cost Arizona the jobs it desperately needs and harm many of those who advocates intend to help. Instead, Arizona should reduce its severely stringent occupational licensing restrictions, which keep those who need a job out of work and hold back the state’s recovery.
By Keith Hall |
Mar 07, 2014

The 175,000 jobs added in February was a modest but welcome pickup in job creation after disappointing gains in the prior two months (84,000 in December and 129,000 in January). But we are still looking to fully regain the momentum from most of 2013 when we averaged 194,000 new jobs.
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