First the good news out of Washington. The US Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 7.3% in August, as the US economy added 169,000 jobs last month. Meanwhile, government data showed the number of people filing for unemployment benefits dropped to 323,000 last week. The four-week average for claims hit a six-year low and provide more proof that the US economy is still growing four years after the official end of The Great Recession.
More people may be working, but there's noticeably less activity in the bedroom. The US fertility rate fell to another record low in 2012, with 63.0 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's down slightly from the previous low of 63.2 in 2011. It marked the fifth year in a row the US birth rate has declined, and the lowest rate on record since the government started tracking the fertility rate in 1909. In 2007, the rate was 69.3.
Falling birth rates can be considered a challenge to future economic growth and the labor pool.<
"If there are fewer younger people in the United States, there may be a shortage of young workers to enter the labor force in 18 to 20 years," said University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson. "A downturn in the birth rate affects the whole economy."
It takes 2.1 children per woman for a given generation to replace itself, and U.S. births have been below replacement level since 2007.
As of last year, a separate CDC analysis shows an American woman will give birth to an average of 1.88 children over her lifetime, also a record low. About 22% of 18-to-34-year-olds surveyed by the Pew Research Center in December 2011 said they had postponed having a baby because of economic conditions. Even in 2012—three years after the recession officially ended—36% of Millennials ages 18 to 31 still lived at home with their parents, according to Pew analysis of US Census data.
The good news is that the declines in the birth rate have slowed and demographers believe the birth rate may level off going forward.
"The decline in fertility rates, which had been dramatic, is stabilizing," Johnson said.
"We think that this fertility decline is now over. As the economy rebounds and women have the children they postponed immediately after The Great Recession, we are seeing an uptick in US fertility," Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, said in a statement.
While overall fertility rates have fallen, trends vary by age, race and ethnicity, according to researchers. For example, the fertility rate decreased among teenagers and women in their 20s, but rose slightly among those over age 30. It held steady for white women, fell among blacks and Hispanics, and rose among Asians and Pacific Islanders last year.
Overall, about 3.95 million babies were born in the US last year.