Unemployment – and underemployment

More than 11 million Americans are out of work, another 8 million are in search of full-time work but are currently working part-time, and yet another 1.9 million are known to be out of work but aren’t otherwise accounted for in what we refer to as the national unemployment rate.
Sobering news, indeed, from the U.S. Department of Labor this morning.

First to the official unemployment rate, which went up four-tenths of a percent in December, to 7.2 percent. According to the Department of Labor, payroll employment fell by 524,000 from November to December, continuing a decline that added up to 1.9 million lost jobs in the final four months of 2008.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of jobs lost is at 3.6 million all told.

That number corresponds almost one-for-one with the rise in underemployment. According to the Labor Department data, the number of people working part-time for economic reasons though they would prefer full-time work has risen by 3.4 million since the start of the recession in ’07. The total number of Americans working part-time while seeking full-time employment is at 8.0 million.

The last category that we examine is the 1.9 million Americans who have looked for work in the past 12 months but were not included in the official unemployment figure because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the collection of data by Labor for its monthly survey.

The number of people in this situation has increased by more than half a million since the beginning of the recession in ’07.

Doing some quick math, if we add the number of Americans not currently employed but otherwise not counted to try to come up with a more accurate unemployment rate, we’d get an 8.3 percent unemployment rate. To me a better reflection of where we are with our workforce would be to devise an unemployment/underemployment rate to reflect the underperformance of the labor economy right now. That figure would stand at 13.4 percent.


– Story by Chris Graham

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