Despite the unemployment rate being at an eight-year low (4.9 percent as of January 2016), the number of people on food stamps remains near an all-time high which was 47,636,000 in 2013.
Why the disparity in the numbers? Well, the unemployment rate does not take into account people who are not in, or have dropped out of, the workforce altogether.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January of this year that approximately 94 million Americans are not participating in the workforce.
But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been hovering around 46 million participants since 2011. The current figure, as of February 2016, stands at 45.8 million Americans receiving food stamps.
Bloomberg Business reported that the last time the unemployment rate was at five percent in April 2008, only 28 million Americans were on food stamps.
Several reasons explain the high numbers. Governments have made it easier to sign up for the program. More than 85 percent of eligible food-stamp recipients took assistance in 2013, the most recent year of available data, compared to 70 percent in 2008. The higher sign-up rate among those qualified accounts for 8.6 million more people on food stamps — about half of the program’s total increase.
Well, at least President Obama put forth one program that has been easy to sign up for.