Counting Unemployment / by urbanexus

The unemployment rate reported by most of the media is U3 . Left out of most reporting is U6--the calculation by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States Department of Labor that includes involuntarily underemployed people. The U6  figure includes persons who want a full-time job, but can only find part-time work. Also left out of the U3 figures are discouraged jobless people who have not looked for work during the past four weeks (see definitions of "alternative mesures of labor underutilization in the table below).  

As of August 2009, the U6 figure for the United States of America was 16.8%. Of course, unemployment rates vary dramatically by metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the BLS does not publish the U6 rate for individual metroplitan areas.  It is likely that the U6 rate for areas hardest hit by the Great Recession, such as Detroit, exceeds 25%.

Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization[i]




Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force


Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force


Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force. (The official unemployment rate). This is the Unemployment Rate that gets "officially" reported.


Total unemployed, plus discouraged** workers.


Total unemployed, plus discouraged** workers, plus all other marginally attached workers* as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers


Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers**, plus total employed part time for economic reasons***. This is the "broadest" measure of unemployment that gets officially tracked. U6 has been in existence since 1994, but a very similar series was also in existence dating back to 1970, and the two are sometimes used interchangeably.



  *Marginally attached workers are those who are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past.


**Discouraged workers, a subset of marginally attached workers, have given a job-market-related reason for not currently looking for a job.


***Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule ("Involuntary part-time workers" )

 The following table comes from the website maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at .

ECON - 2009-08-31 - Alternative Measures of Unemployment (BLS - Table A-12)