US unemployment rate drops to 7.4 percent

In July, total unemployment declined to 14 percent while traditionally reported unemployment dropped to 7.4 percent — the lowest figure in four years.

This chart shows that in July, total unemployment (which includes all marginally attached workers) and traditionally reported unemployment both dropped. The figures reflect the slow but continuing improvement of the employment situation since 2008.

Today's Employment Situation report showed that in July, “total unemployment” including all marginally attached workers declined to 14.0% while the traditionally reported unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent.

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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