Unemployment Stats....As Of Spring/Summer 2012
May 4, 2012, 12:33 pm
Unemployment, Beyond the Rate
The unemployment rate is a measuring stick with many problems, one
of which is that it tends to shift our focus from a human tragedy to the
measuring stick itself, as if we were discussing the level of water in a
It is important to remember that we’re talking about people:
almost 23 MILLION Americans couldn’t find full-time work in April.
Americans Who Cannot Find Full-Time Work
(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The widely quoted “unemployment rate” of 8.1
percent reflects only the red portion of the chart, the 12.5 million people
who did not work in April, and actively searched for new work.
A broader “unemployment rate,” which carries the catchy name
U6, includes all the people in this chart, and stands at 14.5
That is a much more accurate measure of unemployment, but it too
has defects. One technical caveat is that the count of people who looked for
work in the last year but not in the last month, shown on this chart in green
and known to labor experts as “marginally attached,” is not seasonally
(Seasonal adjustments seek to exclude recurring fluctuations, like
holiday hiring or the surge of summer interns, to highlight underlying
So the margin of error is slightly larger, and you won’t find this
particular mash-up on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site. I made it
myself. You’re welcome.
If you don't believe the N.Y. Times (certainly not a “Right-Wing” Source)
here it is straight from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The civilian labor force participation rate declined in April to 63.6 percent,
while the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes
referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged in
April at 7.9 million. These individuals were working part time because their
hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
In April, 2.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force,
essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally
adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were
available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months.
They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in
the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
Among the marginally attached, there were 968,000 discouraged workers in April,
about the same as a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)
Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they
believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons
marginally attached to the labor force in April had not searched for work
in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance
or family responsibilities.
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