Unemployment in October: Still no improvement

Unemployment numbers show that the traditionally reported rate (U3) held steady at 9.6 percent, and if you count those who are underemployed or aren't looking for work (U6), that number is virtually unchanged: 17.0 percent, fractionally down from September's 17.1 percent.

SoldAtTheTop / The Paper Economy
Unemployment is usually reported as people actively seeking work (U3, red line): that remains unchanged from last month, 9.6 percent. If you include people who are not looking for work and those who are employed less than they would like to be, i.e. underemployed or working part-time but hoping for a full-time job (U6, blue line), that's almost twice as many people: 17.0 percent of the adult population. The green area shows the change in the blue line (U6) since 1 year prior.

Today’s Employment Situation report showed that in October “total unemployment” including all marginally attached workers went flat at 17% while the traditionally reported unemployment rate also stayed flat at 9.6%.

The traditional unemployment rate is calculated from the monthly household survey results using a fairly explicit definition of “unemployed” (essentially unemployed and currently looking for full time employment) leaving many workers to be considered effectively “on the margin” either employed in part time work when full time is preferred or simply unemployed and no longer looking for work.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics considers “marginally attached” workers (including discouraged workers) and persons who have settled for part time employment to be “underutilized” labor.

The broadest view of unemployment would include both traditionally unemployed workers and all other underutilized workers.

To calculate the “total” rate of unemployment we would simply use this larger group rather than the smaller and more restrictive “unemployed” group used in the traditional unemployment rate calculation.

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